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.
I’m more than a little bit in awe of Diane Duane. It’s been a while since I read something of hers, and I’d forgotten how good she was at her chosen profession. Though the genre is no longer quite so thinly populated as it was when this book first came out, I still think that Duane outdoes the young wizard competition. When it comes to books about serious young people dealing with serious (if fantastical) problems, she’s totally on top of it. Admittedly, I’m not the most experienced judge for this particular sub-genre, but Duane is worth reading if you like YA literature that doesn’t talk down to its readers.
So You Want To Be A Wizard follows two young newly-sworn-in wizards who are facing their very first duties, which include slowing down the entropic death of the universe and generally trying to make the world a better place. You know, the usual. As you might expect from a story with protagonists devoted to such expansive duties, they don’t have an easy time of things and quickly end up in way over their heads. I admire the depth of the goals Duane sets in front of her characters, as it seems as though they never lack for things to do. This also means that they’re facing things that are profoundly scary and difficult to deal with, which turns out to be the perfect recipe for excitement and wonderfully climactic scenes.
Without spoiling anything, I think I can safely say that this book is an excellent adventure with exceptionally mature themes for a YA story. The themes are more cosmically oriented than those of many other YA books that I’ve seen recently, with an emphasis on the broad scope of a story that I normally associate with epics; I admire the way in which Duane manages to include an epic scope even as she keeps the story (and its narration) very personal. It takes considerable skill to see that through, and Duane clearly has it. If you enjoy epics, YA stories, modern fantasy, or anything similar, I expect that you’ll like this book.
Ok, so I have an odd story about my history with this book…
I love reading Eric Flint’s books. Even when they’re not especially “good,” per se, I still go out of my way to get my hands on them. There’s something special about the way that he constructs story-worlds that I find captivating, and I think I may finally have some of the right words for it. Time and again, I’m struck by the way in which his stories convey a rigorously optimistic, idealistic world view; his protagonists work together to create a better world, or a better future, or a better something else, but there’s always the underlying presence of cooperating with others in order to improve upon what already exists. I don’t always agree with everything that he writes, but given a choice between an Eric Flint-esque book and something less hopeful, I’ll pretty much always pick Flint (or at least return to Flint after a jaunt elsewhere).
Part of it has to do with inspiration, and part of it has to do with my personal headspace. I consistently reference the need for inspiration towards something better when I reviewFlint’sbooks, often referring back to my article on Schindler’s List. I sometimes feel willfully self-deceptive when I consciously shape my media consumption like this, but I find that my own outlook on life is far more positive and constructive when I make sure that I balance my media intake with more hopeful and inspiring stories.
All of which is to say that I find that Flint’s writing serves a very distinct purpose. I like his work more for the fact that he very specifically introduces such positive people and/or groups into his stories; I find it tremendously reassuring to read about people consciously working together to create a better world, and I often feel more empowered to do the same after reading his work. It makes a nice counterweight to my research into things like sex slavery, MKUltra, or Operation Condor. There’s something refreshing to Flint’s idealistic community organizing that helps to clean out the toxicity of the horribly sinister things that we human beings have routinely done to each other.
I think there’s more to be covered here, but I’ll leave it at that for the moment. What do you think? Do you have similar mental health management strategies? Do you actively seek inspiration in the media that you consume?