Tag Archives: Diane Duane

Shelfie 7: May 29, 2015: Arrangements



I never did decide which of these was a better image.  Please do make your cases.

Probably it’s time for another blanket apology for the reviews that are not being posted.  Life has gotten in the way.  Without going into details, several medical emergencies have arisen.  I still have a plethora of photos, and several reviews are begun, but I don’t know when life will next slow down to allow me an hour or two at home to finish those reviews.

Thanks for bearing with me, and I hope you’re enjoying the shelfies.


Book Review: A Wizard of Mars: My Argument for the BroTP



By the ninth book in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, the young wizards aren’t so young anymore. I’m not sure that I wholly approve of the latest sign that Kit and Nita are growing older. For at least seven of the previous eight books if not all eight, these two characters have fought within the text against the worlds’ supposition that any male-female partnership has to be sexual if not romantic, and I was all aboard their ship—their BroTP ship. Yet in this most recent book, A Wizard of Mars, the two of them are becoming more romantically attracted to one another. If this pair becomes an OTP, I may just have to jump overboard and head for the nearest desert isle, not because Kit and Nita (Kita? Nit?) are a terrible or even unlikely pairing, but because I was happy thinking that somewhere in the sea of teen fiction there was a ship that did not need a heart-shaped sail.

The world—our world—the literary world has too many romances and too few male-female friendships untroubled by romance. We do not celebrate singleness, and we over-romanticize romance to the detriment of friendship. By doing so we undermine friendships. I have noticed in my interactions with boys, in my friends’ interactions with boys, in boys’ interactions with me and with my friends that we are damaged by this pervasive idealization of love. There are obstacles put in front of male-female friendships unnecessarily. It ought to be as uncomplicated for me to have male-female friendships as it is for me to have female-female friendships, but it is not. We ought not to have to second-guess every action or word when interacting with the opposite sex. We ought not to feel pressured to feel things toward one another that we may not, and we ought not to believe that any positive feeling towards a member of the opposite sex is romantic.

In a world where too early and too incessantly we are bombarded by the ideals of marriage, true love, romance, and sex and our bodies are sexualized too often and too early, Young Wizards’ male-female BroTP was a breath of fresh air—and a very much needed one.

That all being said, this does not feel like a forced romance and if a romance had to be introduced, I think Duane did so skillfully here. It made sense within the context of the novel, paralleling as it did with a Romeo-Juliet (or Oma-Shu) romance that was important to the action of the plot, so that the romance did not seem jarring. The characters’ thoughts about one another seem… realistic and… earthy. Kit surprises himself when he notices that Nita is “hot.” Nita notices Kit noticing other girls. She has touches of jealousy and general confusion as her feelings towards him begin to shift from platonic to romantic. These thoughts follow gender stereotypes that may have at least some basis in our reality—and by that I mean the reality created by eons of societal expectations. I am glad that there were eight books of a male-female friendship without any stirrings of romance, not only because it provides an example of healthy male-female friendship, but because this romance, if I must now live with it, comes then not from a lightning strike, love-at-first-sight cliché, but a real back and forth, friendship, and slow engendering of greater attachment and attraction. At least then, if romance this must be, it is a more realistic romance than some of the fluff pumped into bookshelves.

Diane Duane I have always admired both for her prose and her blending of science and magic and word. In speaking to a coworker about why she was unable to get into the series, I commented that sometimes I feel like I need an understanding of basic physics to understand this series. If you enter into the series thinking it’s a straight fantasy, as she did, it will be jarring. Reading this book, I noticed, having finished George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons just prior, that I had to look up more words used by Duane than Martin. Some of those were scientific jargon, but the majority of words that sent me to a dictionary were not. The vocabulary level in these books is high, and I say that more to their credit than their denouncement. I appreciate authors who push readers, particularly their child readers, because too often that audience is underestimated, if not in fiction, then in the world at large.

This is the first of the books I would hesitate on some level to recommend to a younger child—not because I think them unable to handle the content or the language but because I think Duane’s intended audience is now teens. She all but says so in the final pages of the book when one of the Senior Wizards explains to the gathered young wizards the shift in wizardry and in the manifestation of the Lone One that comes with maturity—and explains that they’ve just faced one of these more mature trials. This being said, there is nothing in this book any more explicit or complicated than is in the fourth Harry Potter book or any of the later books in that series, so if your child is ready for Goblet of Fire, they’re ready for A Wizard of Mars.


Duane, Diane. Young Wizards, Book 9: A Wizard of Mars. New York: Harcourt-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

This review is not endorsed by Diane Duane or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: The Door Into Fire Opens onto an Intriguing World



It took me almost 11 months to finish Diane Duane’s The Door Into Fire, first in The Tale of the Five series. I found a reference to this adult series by Duane on her blog, Out of Ambit, and not more than a few days later, found the first two books in Tattered Pages. It seemed fated and being already a big fan of Duane’s middle-grade/teen series, Young Wizards, and being more an adult than teen myself now, I thought I had better try the series.

I knew very little about these books before I bought them, only what that blog post and the covers revealed. First let me mention that there are several covers, and that if I’d even seen one of them, the Methuen/Magnet Books (UK) cover, (discretion advised), I’d have run so far in the other direction…. As it was, I found the cover above, with nothing to deter me and everything to recommend the book: a good-looking man in medieval-like clothes on a bright chestnut horse trailing fire and Duane’s name.  Neither cover really works well for me as an indicator of the story inside, but I’m very glad to say that about the one in the link. I don’t want anyone to run in the opposite direction purely because they find that cover.

Within three months, I got about 70% of the way through the novel… and then I don’t know what happened. I don’t think that whatever happened was the fault of the plot. Looking back, that seems to be a pretty exciting part of the book, battling dark spirits from another dimension and holding them back with only a net of magic.

It might have had to do more with the characters, to whom I didn’t particularly connect at any point during the book. I want to be able to diagnose why. I haven’t yet been able to fully, but here are a few thoughts:

1) The characters around Freelorn are complete mysteries even after I close the book—and I can only remember the name of one of his party—a woman who is the heroine of the sequel book. Maybe Duane hadn’t learned how to handle a larger cast yet. I’m researching now and I think that this is Duane’s first book, coming even before her Star Trek novelizations.

2) I like to expect sex rather than be surprised by it. Even so I’m very particular and am still a fan of scenes that fade to black or are at least inexplicit. From the blog and the cover blurb, I wouldn’t have thought that these books had much to do with romance, let alone with the consummation of any romantic feelings.

What scenes there were here were inexplicit, but there were several romantic entanglements, heterosexual, homosexual, with a goddess, with an elemental. While I respect Duane’s openness and boldness in choosing to write about such relationship, especially knowing Duane from her Young Wizards series, which is steeped in Christian mythology and in which Duane scoffs at the perceived necessity of a sexual relationship to drive plot or sales, these relationships were unexpected.

That unwanted surprise created distance between me and the characters, like a broken trust.

I did like that Duane focused on the complications of these relationships rather than on the sexual acts. I also liked what she did with sexual relations in regards to the religion of the world.

The religion that Duane invents for this world is very thought provoking, I think especially knowing as I think that I do from Young Wizards that Duane is familiar with the Christian mythology.

The deity here is a woman (there are some wonderful feminist undertones in this book–especially considering that the book has a male protagonist whose primary romantic partner is also male)—a pansexual woman, who has intercourse with several of the heroes and our heroine simultaneously at one point in the story and gives the main protagonist—Herewiss—a drug to allow him to see as She sees. She is in search of Her best and fullest Self by helping mankind to be their best selves.

The religion and the novel are about self-discovery and -acceptance. That self-acceptance and –discovery manifests very physically for Herewiss in the unlocking of his Flame—or magical energy—to which he has had but limited access (though what he has been able to do with this limited access is rather astounding, so he ought to be a true force to be reckoned with—a hurricane where all who oppose him are but gnats—when he obtains full access; that’s a frightening idea, and I hope that Duane plays with that truly overwhelming power through the series).

The astoundingly beautiful language and the complex and scientific conceptualizations of magic are here as well as in the Young Wizards series. Because that is a lot of what I love of the Young Wizards series, it seems worth mentioning. I have several passages marked that I particularly enjoyed. All those, as I look back on it, are descriptions of the magic that Duane has invented for this world, which I think struck a particular chord while I’m working on defining and describing my own for my WIP.

It’s not a story I regret. It’s one that I’d like to try again and read over a shorter period of time. If that changes my opinion, I will let you all know.


Duane, Diane. The Tale of the Five, Book 1: The Door Into Fire. New York: Tor-Tom Doherty, 1985. Originally published by Dell in 1979.  The original I think was under James R. Frenkel, who left Dell to found Bluejay Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press; Tor reprinted the text with Bluejay’s permission.

This review is not endorsed by Diane Duane, Tor Books, Tom Doherty Associates, Dell Publishing (now owned by Random House), Bluejay Books, or  St. Martin’s Press.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Hey!  Don’t take my word for it.  Here’s a review by Jo Walton on Tor.com.  I love the voice that she uses for this review, and she makes some excellent points.

Book Review: Young Wizards at War Expands to an Epic Scope


On this blog, I’ve only reviewed the first (and there I spoke more of the style and themes) of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, but I’ve read now through the eighth.  The first, So You Want to Be a Wizard?, introduces readers to the protagonists Nita Callahan and Kit Rodriguez, who work together as wizards to combat the Lone One and Its creations, entropy and death.  The wizards are heroes of Life and work with the Powers That Be, more commonly known throughout history as angels and gods of various religions.  The Powers That Be all serve the One, who is essentially God, and I would argue, the Christian idea of God.  Wizards exist across species and across the universe.  The seventh book in the series, Wizard’s Holiday, saw Kit and Nita away on an exchange program.  While they were off-world, a trio of alien wizards came to live at the Callahans’ and helped Nita’s sister, Dairine, to heal our sun and protect Earth.  [SPOILER] Kit’s and Nita’s away-mission came to an early end when the species that they were living with evolved beyond a physical form and left the planet. [END SPOILER]  They come home and join Dairine; the tree-like Filif; the insectile Sker’ret, a near relative of the Stationmaster of the Crossings, a hub like Grand Central or King’s Cross St. Pancras for transport to other planets; and the humanoid young king, Roshaun, whose specialty is suns and stars.

Wizards at War opens with a warning from Tom and Carl, the area seniors.  A strange increase of dark matter throughout the universe has been warping the universe and changing its description, making wizardry impossible as wizardry depends on accurately describing the universe.  Older wizards past their peak, like Tom and Carl, are losing their ability to work wizardries—and as the dark matter continues to increase, they lose even the memory of wizardry.  Nita and Kit are appointed as temporary seniors, and the fate of the world has fallen into the hands of children alone.

Wizards at War reunites us with many of friends from previous books—Darryl, S’ree, Ronan and the Power the resides inside of him—and introduces us too to a few more, including a set of twychilds, twins Nguyet and Tuyet who are able to amplify power by bouncing it back and forth between them.  The mission of our heroes brings us to a world so lost to the Lone One that it is listed as irredeemable by the Manual.  There they again must battle the Lone One by empowering one of the natives of the planet to do so.  [HERE BEGIN THE SPOILERS] She—yes, she, though her culture is male-dominated—is a new form of the Lone One, a form of the Lone One that chooses Life instead of Death.  The Lone One like all of the Powers and the One lives outside of Time.  Therefore it’s possible for two forms of It to exist at once, the One inside of Memeki and the One that controls Memeki’s planet.  The One that controls the planet seeks vengeance against the wizards who help Memeki to unlock her power.  The ensuing battle on Earth’s moon claims many friends.  I’m still uncertain how many are lost for good and how many may be resurrected in one form or another, even if they have lost their wizardry. [END SPOILERS]

Like many of the recent books, this one focuses on the Choice, the Choice between Life and Death, God or Darkness.

Of all of the recent books, this one is perhaps the most complex in scale, cast, and concept.  This is epic in a way that Duane’s series has not been before.  Like its title suggests, this is a wartime novel of the vein of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or maybe more accurately J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  The large cast includes expendable characters and warriors whom the audience will hate to lose.  All the characters have accepted death as a possibility in the face of their foe and no one seems safe anymore.  Still the certainty that good will triumph over evil remains (mostly I think because of the series’ Christian mythological background) and still the lines are clearly drawn [SPOILER] (though with Memeki’s coming to power, I suppose that is not as true as it was). [END SPOILER]

I will be very interested to see how the series progresses from here.  There is one more published book for me to read and I think there will be others besides in time.


Duane, Diane.  Young Wizards, Book 8: Wizards at War.  Orlando: Magic Carpet-Harcourt, 2005.

This review is not endorsed by Diane Duane, Magic Carpet Books, Harcourt, Inc., or Delacorte Press.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: So You Want To Be a Wizard May Be Nine People’s Favorite Thing


Diane Duane and I were introduced by a friend in my junior year of high school.  I fell in love with her Young Wizards quickly.

I’ve since then read and reread each book in the series up through the seventh (Wizard’s Holiday), and have only failed to continue on because the books (beyond the first few) are difficult to find in bookstores and must be ordered online.

Rereading most recently the first of the series, So You Want to Be a Wizard, I was again blown away by both the power and beauty of Duane’s prose, the intricacy of her world(s), and the beautiful blending of magic and fantasy with (Christian) mythology and science.

There’s a lot that Duane does well and a lot that I love.

1) Duane blends different mythologies (one Power claiming to have gone by the names Athena, Prometheus, Thor, Lugh, and the Archangel Michael) and scientific theories into a single, cohesive myth.  I did not for some time recognize so starkly that what Duane was doing was creating a magic system to work against the background of Christian mythology.  The fifth book, The Wizard’s Dilemma, (if I remember rightly) is the first to name the Starsnuffer or Lone One as the fallen Lucifer and the first to name the One as God.  Many ideas have been shared throughout time by Christians and Christian theologians about the power (or lack thereof) behind other gods: that all gods are God, that those other gods as demons, that they are men’s inventions and powerless.  In Duane’s myths, the other gods are angels (or both angels and the other gods are Powers), servants of God but not God Himself.  I could argue and have argued with myself about this issue, but Duane’s interpretation, though I know she writes it primarily as a work of fantasy, sits well with me—which perhaps is good and perhaps is dangerous.  I choose not to overthink it.  I don’t think that her interpretation has any real effect upon my interpretation other than to exist as another opinion.

2) Duane’s magic is affected primarily by the Speech, a language spoken by all things (or which all things can speak, but some forget).  The Speech is used both to ease negotiations because of its universality and, because one cannot lie in the Speech and promises made in the Speech must be kept, to help to persuade an object or person to change or to remind it what it should be, a wizard’s purpose being to help and to aid Life.  It falls into a category with other fantasies that laud the power of words, language, or secret names.  Especially, Duane’s Speech reminds me of the Old One’s speech from Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence and the way that knowing the true names of things gives one power in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea books and the very similar idea that Rick Riordan borrows from Egyptian mythology for The Kane Chronicles.  Of those, I feel like Duane best uses language (you all can disagree with me; LeGuin’s prose I admit comes very close to having the same power as Duane’s, but LeGuin is writing for a different audience, and I prefer Duane’s speed and immediacy to LeGuin’s epic style).  I feel Duane embodies with her prose what she preaches by giving her words the power that words possess in the Speech.  Her imagery is vivid and poetic so that what should not or cannot be I can see clearly in my mind almost without fail.

3) There is little diversity in fantasy.  Most human heroes and heroines resemble an Anglo race (probably because we are all secretly emulating Tolkien, who was British in a time when Britain was less diverse than it now is).  Kit Rodriguez is a rare example of a Hispanic American in a fantasy where his race is not made into an issue or highlighted in any way.  He simply is Hispanic and his family speaks Spanish mixed with English not as an act of defiance, I feel, against the fantasy-world norm, but as a matter of fact.  Yes, Kit’s ethnicity is more obvious than Ged being copper-skinned but because Duane can include snippets of a recognizable language that is not the language in which the book is primarily written, her fantasy being low rather than high.  (Snippets of a high fantasy language build a fantasy world but can only infrequently be a ready identifier for readers of a race different from other characters of the same world.  For example, without them being labeled as such, would a casual reader recognize any difference between Dothraki, Braavosi, or High Valyrian?  Or Elvish, Dwarvish, and Orcish for that matter?  High fantasies have in some ways to work harder to create ethnicity because the reader knows none of the ethnic identifiers before entering the fantasy world.)

4) This first novel in particular is almost an anti-bullying book, with Nita Callahan deciding to try to befriend her bully at the end of the novel, [SPOILER] having just realized that even the most wicked can be exchange their ways for good if given the chance to do so. [END SPOILER]

This first novel, So You Want To Be a Wizard, reads more than some of the others as a simple, late middle-grade fantasy adventure.  There is a clear villain against which the young heroes must compete for the fate of the world.  The conflict is a simple, primarily external one.  Later novels delve deeper into difficult issues (parent’s death, cancer, autism), but even in this first, Duane creates or borrows a terrifying villain and doesn’t shy from killing protagonists—or rather allowing them to sacrifice themselves for the cause.


Duane, Diane.  Young Wizards, Book 1: So You Want To Be a Wizard.  Orlando: Magic Carpet-Harcourt, 1996.  First published by Delacorte 1983.

This review is not endorsed by Diane Duane, Magic Carpet Books, Harcourt, Inc., or Delacorte Press.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

As a note: this is a review of the original text.  Diane Duane is currently working on updated versions of the stories subtitled as The New Millennium editions, which, I hear, include updated technology and corrected facts and figures.

Title borrowed from the song from [Title of Show], “Nine People’s Favorite Thing.”


Audiobook Review: Can A Swiftly Tilting Planet’s Lofty Language Support the Story?


When I bought the cheapest car that I could find, it did not come with a CD player.  All I have is a tape player and very few tapes that I have any desire to listen to.  So when my mother found a set of cassettes of Madeleine L’Engle reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the third book in her Time series and my favorite of the three when I was a child, I happily accepted the gift.

Hearing an author read her works is always fascinating, particularly after, I think, having read it yourself (or having had someone else read it to you).  There were certain lines the inflection of which surprised me, but rather than just agreeing to disagree as would be the case with most books on tape, I am corrected by the author and being given insights into the character that must not have come across in print.  You know when you hear an author read her own work, you’re hearing it as it is intended to be read, and that is always a magical thing.

L’Engle is a wordsmith.  Some of her scenes are painted with the brilliance and delicacy of a fine watercolor, and she has the power to meld magic and science in a way that never fails to impress me when done well.  Diane Duane (author of The Young Wizards series) shares this power, though L’Engle gives her science more prominence in a plot, really tipping the Time series more towards science-fiction than fantasy, despite the unicorns, angels, and demons.

Several times I found myself tearing, my breath quickening, catching, my heart pounding with the action in the story—dangerous reactions in some ways when you’re driving home in traffic but a high compliment to the story.  With that in mind, I can only rate A Swiftly Tilting Planet so poorly, even if this latest read did drop it in my rankings of its series-fellows.  I clearly enjoyed it.  I got caught up in it.

It took me months to get through the whole novel because I’ve found that when driving I much prefer music to any kind of talk, and because when I was near the end of the novel, I started carpooling with my roommate who has not read the novel, and so I couldn’t continue from where I’d left off with her in the car—or I couldn’t do so kindly, anyway, so I didn’t.

This latest reading of the book, then, was very broken, and I’m sure that that has effected my enjoyment of the novel.  Now, I don’t think I could say that A Swiftly Tilting Planet is my favorite of the Time trilogy, despite its Welsh folklore (often a way to cinch my approval of a book).  I’ve actually recently (in April 2009 or more recently) reread all three of the books, and I think I enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time best, though I prefer A Swiftly Tilting Planet to A Wind in the Door (A Wind in the Door might also have been hurt by being attached to a particularly difficult paper).

I was somewhat annoyed that Charles Wallace reads younger than 15 when he has always been described as old for his age, and yes, the repeated family names were a little annoying too.


L’Engle, Madeleine.  The Time Quintet, Book Three: A Swiftly Tilting Planet.  Listening Library, 1996.  Cassette tapes.  First published 1978.

This review is not endorsed by Listening Library, any of A Swiftly Tilting Planet’s print publishers, or Madeleine L’Engle.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader—or listener.