I’ve mentioned wanting to write Tintin stories before, and Chuck Wendig’s “vacation” prompt for this week finally sparked something. This is mostly an experiment with transposing the voices of the old characters onto new faces and updating the setting, while still trying to find appropriately Tintin-ish things for the characters to do. Enjoy!
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.
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…
So I read Skin Game (that review is over here), and I blazed through it in my usual gluttonous fashion. One of my friends knew I’d be wanting more books of a similar ilk to fill my gaping maw while I waited for the next entry in the Dresden Files, and so he recommended Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid series. It turns out that Hounded, the first book of the series, pretty perfectly satisfies my aforementioned appetite. It’s not very long, and it’s not very complicated (except insofar as there are a number of different magical beings, most of whom do not get along with each other), but it’s certainly entertaining. I would say it’s something like literary junk food, with a small helping of mythological nutrition. Good for a light snack.
An important note for those who have felt burned by previous experience with the Dresden Files: I don’t think this book is particularly offensive, though I should leave any final judgement to the consideration of someone with a more sensitive palate. Specifically, there are a number of female characters who don’t feel like they’re only set dressing (it turns out Celtic goddesses show up frequently in a high-mythology urban fantasy about an ancient druid, and the few mortal women you meet aren’t helpless damsels either), but there is a Hollywood-esque imbalance in favor of the pretty, and far more attention is lavished on the descriptions of attractive women than on the descriptions of attractive men. I don’t really see a problem with that focus, given that the narrator appears to be a straight male, but if you’re not interested in stories about a straight man in an urban fantasy setting you should probably look elsewhere. Like I said, this book scratches a similar itch to the Dresden Files, but with less Noir and all that that entails.
Right, so how about more details on the story and setting?