Duane, Diane: (108) Wizards at War

Diane Duane’s Wizards at War is the eighth and most recent Young Wizards book. Wizardry itself is in peril now, with the rest of the universe to follow in quite short order; and since the less powerful—that is, older and more experienced—wizards lose wizardry first, our teenaged protagonists find themselves with a universe to save.

Since I complained about this with regard to the prior book, let me say up front that there is finally a payoff with all the stuff with Ponch, Kit’s dog. This is a good thing. We also see quite a few characters from prior books. This makes sense given the setup, and yet it still felt like it fell just on the “self-indulgent” side of the line of bringing series characters back. I had a similar reaction to the ending: almost everything fit (there’s one thing that’s still open-ended that I must, perforce, reserve judgment on [*]), and yet it felt just a little bit too happy.

[*] Somewhat annoyingly, really. I can see leaving the main part of it unresolved, but we couldn’t at least get the meaning of a single sentence in the Speech?

As far as the story itself, I begin to wonder if the moral nature of Duane’s universe isn’t limiting the types of stories that can be told in it. This was a good story, but for all that it dealt with something fundamentally new (as the characters told us), it didn’t feel very new. Overall, this was mostly absorbing while I was reading, but the little things that poked up through my narrative rush bothered me all the more once I put it down. A mid-tier book at best.

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  1. The deuce, you say. I deliberately looked up the publication schedule for WIZARDS AT WAR yesterday, on the Locus website’s “forthcoming books” section, and saw that it was scheduled for October of 2005. That explained why the library didn’t seem to have it on the shelves, so I didn’t look any further.

    How long has it been out?

  2. David Tate: I bought it Sunday off the shelf at my local Borders. It’s apparently on-shelf in a few other cities.

    bordersstores.com has an inventory lookup that I rely on.

  3. I saw it at the local Barnes & Nobles, but want to wait until it shows up at my friend’s independent bookstore. It’s starting to bug me how the big chains get the books first. I’m glad the Harry Potter books all stuck to one release date. One of the clerks at our local store said something about street dates for selling the book; I wonder if the big stores ever get called on this.

  4. I liked it overall, and but I agree it doesn’t hit a lot of new territory.
    (The previous book did, which I thought was an indication of a good
    direction for the series, but I guess not.)

    My biggest disappointment was that the “kids in charge” theme was almost
    completely lost. Aside from one glimpse of a Senior-level manual and the
    emotional hit of the Tom and Carl scenes, we don’t see our heroes having
    to be Seniors. The decisions should have gotten more uncomfortable,
    more snarled, and less fair. Instead, it was adventuring as usual. The
    kids are in a position of responsibility, which is the point of the
    series, but it’s the same position of responsibility they’ve been in
    since they were twelve.

    (On the other hand, I think it would have taken a lot of pages to do
    that correctly, and this is a long book already. So—should have been
    a different book.)

    My biggest sur-appointment (is that word?) is Ponch’s story. That made
    the book for me, really.

  5. Andrew: that’s a good point about the lack of new responsibility; I agree that it would have been very interesting to see. And I am very fond of the Ponch portion of the book.

  6. On the question of “publication dates”.

    As far back as I can remember, an official “publication date” almost never really meant that was the actual date of availability, it generally meant a couple of weeks earlier.

    I always thought that was just a convention of the book industry (perhaps originating as insurance against last minute glitches and simply continuing as a custom).

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