Candace's Reviews > A Wizard of Mars

A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane
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's review
May 25, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, favorites

** spoiler alert ** Maybe it’s because I read it so quickly (and with such a deadline!) and because when compared to the amount of time I had to predict the book, the amount of time in which I have actually known the book is so miniscule as to be almost insignificant, but I don’t really know where I stand on this one yet. I think it’s safe to say this is no Rift in the Sky-esque disaster where an author I absolutely and completely love manages to let me down so hard, but it’s also no Riders of the Storm/The Wizard's Dilemma-style success. Although it does represent the canonization of the first pairing I ever shipped (9 books and 11 years later…), and that makes me ecstatically happy, I didn’t find myself absolutely in love with this book.

Part of the problem, I think, is that it’s not at all in the tone of the two books that preceded it. Wizard's Holiday and Wizards at War work together on a really unified register to create that tension-before-the-storm followed by the worlds’ largest hurricane (and yes that apostrophe is in the right place, I am intending for this metaphorical hurricane to be possessed by all of the worlds and not just one), and although I was initially circumspect even about Wizards at War, I now tend to read it as Part II of an intentionally two-part arc that begins with Holiday, and that reading makes both of those books really significant for me.

Something I love about WH and WAW that I only just realized was missing from AWOM is Dairine’s perspective on unfolding events. Okay, yes, part of this is because I like watching the dynamic of the Dairine/Roshaun relationship. So sue me. Even the shippers can’t deny that they’re just a fascinating pair to watch. And of course part of my feeling of letdown with this book was the failure to engage on a more than superficial level with the question of Roshaun’s disappearance. But even without him in the picture, I found myself missing the snarky Dairine-voice that I’d become accustomed to from WH and WAW. I feel like she would’ve been able to give Nita some killer advice at certain points during this book and the fact that she never did feels like a bit of an opportunity missed.

But overall, even ignoring the exclusion of Dairine’s POV, this story felt a lot different from others — and not just in the way that DD gestured at toward the end with the whole “how is it over if the Lone One hasn’t turned up yet?” quip and the talk about black and white. I think it’s cool that she’s going more subtle with the good-versus-evil thing (though I do hope we get some face-to-face confrontations still, because they are pretty badass), but that didn’t strike me quite so much. It was strange, because although the problem was very large — I’d judge it as being on par with the issues in A Wizard Abroad — it was dealt with by a very small cast of characters. Now that in itself isn’t bad, but it’s obvious that there are other wizards who are equally as involved with Mars as Kit is and why didn’t they come meandering on over once they read the Manual’s precis to check things out? It just seems a little strange to me that a phenomenon so big was being dealt with by so few people in such a way that it felt fixed.

As I was reading, I kept connecting this to A Wizard Alone, and the text didn’t exactly work too hard to keep me from making the connections — Kit gets too caught up in something, needs Nita/Ponch to pull him out before he wreaks havoc/dies in alternate-ish universe. It felt like it had been done before, and obviously, so it bothered me that no one else in the text made that connection. It also bothered me that Kit got off so easy in the end; I mean, I understand that from one end of time it was what had to be done, but I still feel like there’s a chance he could get a bit cocky about this sort of thing which might not be the best idea. What he and Ronan and Darryl were doing felt wrong while they were doing it, and I didn’t like managing that unease as one factor of reading the work.

Perhaps part of why I don’t like AWOM that much (yet) has to do with its plot structure. To me it felt really slow to start, with most of the interesting bits happening in the last 150 pages. Granted, there were great moments before there, but many of them (between Dairine and Nita) weren’t part of the main thrust of the narrative. Perhaps if I was more schooled in the literary past of Mars I would have enjoyed or appreciated the “tests” Darryl, Ronan, and Kit triggered, but I’d never encountered any of the materials DD referenced.

Also, I think this book just introduced waaaay too much new stuff. We’ve got the history of the Martians-who-aren’t-from-Mars. We’ve got all sorts of new little tidbits about the way wizardry works — things like Carmela’s linguistic skill, geomancy and hydromancy (and Angelina Pellegrino), “taking the wrong turn,” “streaming consciousness,” etc. We’ve got new locations. We’ve got a plethora of new characters who are obviously going to be important — Irina, Mamvish, and Helena — but none of them really get the development I would have hoped for. Perhaps because WAW ended so much stuff, AWOM feels like it’s taking too much time trying to begin new things.

But I will say there is at least one new thing it begins that I can’t complain about, and here it comes: in the first ship I ever shipped, I was right. Now, not too difficult in my opinion, at least under these circumstances, but it still feels rather lovely. Nita and Kit have always been my model of an ideal partnership of any kind — and when I think about what a perfect relationship looks like, it looks an awful lot like theirs.

However, I was thinking about why I’m not so much MORE excited than I already am about this and I realized that, whereas with Dairine and Roshaun I am very very VERY interested in the process that gets them into a relationship (because it will be nowhere near as simple as Kit and Nita’s — there will be fireballs, I am guessing, and shouting matches, and perhaps some actual physical fighting — I would not put it past them), with Kit and Nita I am way more interested in the “what happens next.” What does it mean that they are boyfriend/girlfriend? How will they negotiate this against being wizarding partners? How will their parents take it? How will the seniors take it? (Uh, I really want someone to write me a fic in which Tom and Carl offer Kit and Nita relationship advice.) How will Dairine take it? (I actually really want to write a fic in which Dairine gets very angry at her sister and Kit for being so happy when Roshaun is gone and NO ONE SHOULD BE HAPPY.)

Overall impression is positive. It’s not going to be my new favorite in the series anytime soon but I’d say that it certainly isn’t my least favorite either. All I can say now is that it definitely needs a second reading. Who knows? Maybe the next thing coming will flesh this out, be a Part II to its Part I, and make me see it in an entirely different (and more satisfied) light.
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