November 21, 2007
So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane
While trying to outrun bullies, Nita escapes to her favorite refuge- the library. While poking through the children’s section she finds a series about careers- “So You Want to Be a…Police Officer, Teacher, Doctor, Wizard” wait, Wizard?! Nita gets the book and finds that it is a handbook on how to become and act as a wizard. Wizards, in this world are a lot different than the conventional view of them in fantasy. They are charged with slowing down the process of entropy- the death of the universe by conserving energy and maintaining balance. In searching for a lost possession, Nita and her new friend Kit find themselves in an alternate New York City ruled by malevolent machines with minds of their own. The world depicted in the book is fascinating, and the plot is a suspenseful and often hilarious adventure.
While physics obviously works differently in this universe, Duane uses scientific concepts in telling the story, so I think it will likely appeal to readers who tend to prefer science fiction over fantasy, while fantasy enthusiasts like myself will find the unusual take on magic to be interesting.
I look forward to the next in the series- Deep Wizardry.
Take a Thief: A Novel of Valdemar by Mercades Lackey
Much of Take a Thief reads like a fantasy version of Oliver Twist- an orphan boy who runs away and joins a gang of pickpockets. Skif is a clever and resourceful lad who learns to survive no matter what. Skif’s routine is interrupted with a tragic fire- which he suspects was not an accident. As he investigates it, he finds that the arson is connected with other wrongdoing. The wretched circumstances which he and his peers endure is astounding- it reminded me of the all too real poverty that exists in our own world. All too often in fantasy we see only the perspective of the nobility, while the everyday lives of the lower classes are only briefly touched on. The reader may wonder where the plot is going- and it indeed about 2/3rds of the novel is about Skif’s life on the streets, until he reaches a fateful turning point.
It takes place over the course of about 5 years or so. But the journey towards that place is a colorful adventure, and it is worth the ride. The action and suspense of the story kept me hooked. This is the second Valdemar book I’ve read, the other being By the Sword. I wouldn’t count this book among my favorites, but I thought it was pretty good. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something different in fantasy other than the usual knights, princesses and dragons.