Deep Wizardry, by Diane Duane



Yes, that is a truly massive shark.  The cover of the version that I read had something to do with a whale, but I like this one better.  I thought I’d already reviewed this book, and it was only as I was sitting down to write my review of the next one in the series that I checked back through my previous posts and found that I was wrong.  So before I tell you my thoughts on High Wizardry, let me tell you how I felt about Deep Wizardry.

The quick and dirty version is as follows: Diane Duane is good at her job, and she knows how to write books about young children taking on incredible responsibilities and facing overwhelming decisions… Which is a decent description of growing up, when I think about it.  Of course, most of us aren’t given access to powerful magical forces except in a metaphorical sense.  Deep Wizardry, like So You Want To Be A Wizard, is quality children’s literature; I’ll even go further and say that it’s good enough to merit your attention and reflection too, child or not.

With the exception of the “I think I read most of this before” section, my review of Deep Wizardry really is very similar to my review of So You Want To Be A Wizard.  I’m still more than a little bit in awe of Duane, she still writes excellent YA adventure with exceptionally mature themes, and she still does an incredibly good job of not talking down to her audience.  What I hadn’t really appreciated before is just how well her chosen storyline and protagonists map onto the experience of going through puberty and becoming an adult.  Call me stupid, call me slow, but though I noticed it in the first book I took another book or two to finally decide that it was more than just a fortuitous construction of the moment.  This, of course, has simply left me more appreciative of Duane’s writing chops, and her choice of subject material.

As per usual, there’s more after the break.

Right, so, this part contains discussion of the series’ themes as a whole.  It’s not really *SPOILERS*, but if you’re especially finicky you might like to leave it alone.

I’d have to do a good deal more soul searching to be sure why, but the persistent themes of death, sacrifice, and redemption that permeate the series are quite moving for me.  There’s a specific quality to the sacrifice that really gets me: there’s something about knowing and accepting one’s death and using it to accomplish something good that I find both poignant and positive.  Of course it’s also quite cause-specific, since I feel none of the same positive attachments to suicide bombings and such.  One feels like the beneficent self-sacrificing reincarnation myths of old, while the other feels like tragedy unleavened by any greater good.  I’ll cut it off there, more conversation on the topic would only devolve into me muttering about definitions of terrorism, sacrifice, and unequal access to and power of expression.

Perhaps going hand in hand with the previous bit, there’s a quietly religious quality to this series that I find oddly comforting.  It’s nice to think that there’s a united front against the eventual entropic death of the universe, and it’s easy to see the wizards as a holistic group which has been behind many of the positive elements of history, even if the course of events does seem to perpetually take a turn for the bittersweet.  It’s a very warm and fuzzy shield against the scarier side of what Duane brings up time and again in her books.  Mortality, and the accompanying implication that everything we know shall eventually pass away into entropy, is hardly something to leave me feeling happy.

In fact, I find this series embracing both ends of a spectrum.  While it is clearly tied up in the rush of vitality and excitement that comes with growing up and coming of age, it simultaneously addresses themes and topics that I’m most familiar with through hospice work: aging and death will come to us all, though not necessarily in that order.  Consider me even more thoroughly impressed, Diane Duane.

In case you can’t tell, I rather liked Deep Wizardry despite writing almost nothing specifically about it.  If you liked the first book, you’ll probably like Deep Wizardry too.


2 responses to “Deep Wizardry, by Diane Duane

  1. Deep Wizardry’s probably my least favorite of the Young Wizards books. Throughout the entire book, I felt like someone spectating an elaborate train wreck, for a variety of reasons that only seemed to increase as the story progressed. The worst example is probably Nita volunteering to play the silent lord. Sree’s exaggerated gratitude made it apparent what that entailed, so I spent the entire book knowing that Nita was going to die, knowing that she had to get out of it for there to be sequels, and wondering how she didn’t realize what was going to happen in time to avoid her lifeblood staining coral at the bottom of the sea.

    • Yeah, I spent a lot of Deep Wizardry wondering the same thing, though it didn’t exactly ruin the book for me. At a certain point when reading a series, I have to abandon my expectations that the main characters will really suffer (and possibly die) as a consequence of whatever it is that they’ve done. I almost feel like I’ve gotten used to it, though that’s less than ideal.

      That “train-wreck” sensation has actually made me put down books before. It usually takes a long time before I’ll pick one of those back up again.

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