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by Diane Duane
This is the 1985 sequel to So You Want to Be a Wizard, and second in the Young Wizards sequence that (to date) runs seven books strong. And wow, what a powerful story! I hardly know where to begin!
Some months after their first adventures as partner wizards, thirteen-year-old Nita Callahan and twelve-year-old Kit Rodriguez are on vacation with Nita’s parents and sister Dairine on a Southampton (Long Island, NY) beach when they get called into active service. The wizards who need their help just happen to be whales. Taking whale form, Kit and Nita become part of a ritual reenactment– something between an opera and a sacrament– that must be done periodically to hold back the Lone Power (a.k.a. the Old Serpent).
After gathering ten whales and one Master Shark for singing roles in an ancient drama of temptation and sacrifice, the great animals dive deep into the ocean and battle against Krakens, traitors, and worse, in order to save the Eastern Seaboard from going the way of Atlantis. There’s a catch. Nita, in the form of a humpback whale, is singing the part of the Silent Lord whose sacrifice redeemed life… and she must not only reenact the sacrifice, but she must actually give her life to save Life.
At first you’re wondering, How is she going to get out of this? Later you begin to ask yourself, Will she find a way to actually do this willingly? And what will become of her parents, who have just learned that their daughter is a wizard, and are only beginning to cope with that? What will become of her sister Dairine, who shows signs of becoming an even greater wizard? And what will become of Kit, whose wizardry is forever bound up with hers?
The cast of characters mostly consists of whales and one very big, very old, very scary shark named, well, Ed. And amazingly, they all become very interesting and sympathetic characters, each memorable in his or her special way.
Some may be particularly impressed by the part of the story when Nita and Kit convince Nita’s parents that they are wizards. Some may revel in the gorgeous language, the bottom-kicking battles, and the powerful magic in the story. Some may love the environmentalist themes and the majestic forces of nature on display here. And even though there are several stories about Nita and Kit after this one, still most of us will be awed by the pitch of suspense this tale reaches. Personally, I was blown away by the way Ms. Duane captured the concept of redemption and wove it into a heart-wrenching, gut-clenching climax.
If you take a chance on reading this book, you will almost certainly be eager to read High Wizardry after it.