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by Diane Duane
The seventh of the ongoing Young Wizards series is this 2003 book featuring teen wizards Nita Callahan and Kit Rodriguez. Nita’s wizardly kid sister Dairine gets into big trouble for trying to sign Nita and herself up for a wizard exchange program during spring break. As a result, Nita and Kit get sent away as exchange wizards, and Dairine and her dad play host to three young wizards from far away. Only we’re not talking about young wizards from France or Japan, but from the far reaches of the galaxy…
Of course, it’s not supposed to be “errantry,” or official wizard business. It’s just supposed to be a holiday, a cultural exchange with a dash of wizardry. And for Kit and Nita, they couldn’t have been sent to a nicer planet for it… Alaalu, which is all beaches and cheerful, honest people, without war or disease or crime, and hardly even any death. Leave it to Nita to find something wrong with it. And leave it to the Lone Power to be at the bottom of it. And leave it to Kit and his “adjunct talent,” i.e. his dog Ponch, to follow Nita right down into the Alaalid underworld.
Meanwhile, back on Long Island, Dairine and her dad have to make some quick adjustments to get along with a sensitive sentient tree, a giant ravenous centipede with eight eyes on stalks, and a handsome and arrogant prince who seems to think all this is beneath him. After experiencing a day at the mall with these three zany characters, you would think an opportunity to save the earth from a solar crisis would come almost as a relief. But Dairine needs to grow a bit if she’s going to handle the pressure… and her new friends have their own problems to come to terms with.
This story is full of wonderful sci-fi and wizardry stuff, like the Binding Oath that Nita forces upon the Lone Power, and the paradoxical plots and counter-plots relating to the Choice of Alaalu, and the stellar mechanics involved in saving our sun, not to mention all the different alien creatures and their cultures. All this is quite interesting, but what really makes the story click is the combination of mystery, suspense, humor, and romance, with wonderful and real characters that just keep growing on you. I hope to see more of Nita and Kit and all their friends!