Okay, so at this point, it’s more like last week I read, but I was out of town okay? FanExpo, you may be badly run and way too expensive, but you do get good guests. And I got a chance to promote the currently-unamed Doctor Who convention that the Tcon Promotional Society is putting on next year. http://tcon.ca/who2013/ (See how subtle I am?) Anywho…
When Nita finds the Book at the library, she can’t quite believe that it could help (So You Want to be a Wizard? Really?), but it can’t hurt. And getting beat up a couple of times a week by Joanne and her friends is certainly a thorny problem. So she reads the Book, and she takes the Oath, and then Things Start Happening. She meets Kit, and Fred, and they get sent to another version of Manhattan to find the missing Book of Night With Moon. Too bad it was stolen by the Lone Power who created Death. And He doesn’t want to give it back.
This is a revised and updated version of Duane’s 1983 novel, since technology and society have changed a great deal since it was originally published. Her blog post here explains the changes and the reasons, but the short version is to connect the book more closely to the rest of the series. I’ve been reading the series for 20+ years, so I recognize most of the technology, but the third book’s technology is especially out of date so I am glad that she is revising them. Bullying is a hot topic in the news right now and I like how Duane went into more detail about what Joanne does and how it affects Nita.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that this is my favourite series. I’ve reread it over and over again since I was in elementary school. When a new volume is published, I go out and buy the hardcover that day and devour it right away. One of the best parts of reading is finding a world that speaks to you, one that says “This is where you belong. The real world, it’s not as real, not as right as here. I make sense. Come visit me.” For me, Nita and Kit’s world is that world. I used to say the Oath and hope the world would wake up different. Then again, maybe it did.
She hadn’t been down here in ages; no self-respecting thirteen-year-old would let herself be seen down in the little-kid zone. But she privately still loved the place as much as the upstairs library, or (for that matter) any library anywhere. There was something about all that knowledge, all those facts waiting patiently to be found, that never failed to give Nita a shiver. When friends couldn’t be found, the books were always waiting with something new to tell. Life that was getting too much the same could be shaken up in a few minutes by the picture in a book of some ancient temple newly discovered deep in a rain forest, an image of a blue sunrise above a crater on Mars, or a prismed picture taken through the faceted eye of a bee.
And I just about lived down here till I got out of elementary, Nita thought as she moved softly through the dimness, among the low tables and chairs. She’d read everything in sight, fiction and nonfiction alike—fairy tales, science books, horse stories, dog stories, music books, art books, even the encyclopedias.
Of course as soon as some of the other kids noticed this, the trouble began. Bookworm, she heard the old jeering voices go in her head, four-eyes, Little Miss Dictionary. Smartass. Walking encyclopedia. Think you’re so hot. “No,” she remembered herself answering once, “I just like to find things out!” And she sighed, for that time she’d found out about being punched in the stomach.
But maybe not today. For the moment Nita just strolled between the shelves, looking at titles, smiling as her gaze fell on old friends—books she’d read three times, or five times, or a dozen. Just a title, or an author’s name, would be enough to summon up happy images. Strange creatures like phoenixes and psammeads, moving under the smoky London daylight of a hundred years before, in company with groups of bemused children; princesses in silver and golden dresses, princes and heroes carrying swords like sharpened lines of light, monsters rising out of weedy tarns, wild creatures that talked and tricked one another; starships and new worlds and the limitless vistas of interstellar night, outer space challenged but never conquered….
I used to think the world would be like the stories when I got older. Exciting all the time, full of wonder. Instead of the way it is….
An undertow of blinding power and irresistible light poured into her, over her, drowned her deep. She couldn’t fight it. She didn’t want to. Nita understood now the clear-burning transfiguration of Kit’s small plain human face and body, for it was not the wizard who read the Book; it was the other way around. The silent Power that had written the Book reached through it now and read what life had written in her body and soul—joys, hopes, fears, and failings all together—then took her intent and read that too, turning it into fact.
She was turning the bright pages now without even thinking about it, finding the place in the Book that spoke of creation and rebellion and war among the stars—the words that had once before broken the terrible destroying storm of death and darkness that the angry Starsnuffer had raised to break the new-made worlds and freeze the seas where life was growing, an eternity ago. “I am the wind that troubles the water,” Nita said, whispering in the Speech. The whisper smote against the windowed cliffs until they echoed again, and the clash and tumult of battle began to grow still as the wind rose at her naming. “I am the water, and the waves; I am the shore where the waves break in rainbows; I am the sunlight that shines in the spray—”
The power rose with the rhythms of the old, old words, rose with the wind as all about her the earth and air and waters of the park began to remember what they were—matter and energy, created, indestructible, no matter what darkness lay over them. “I am the trees that drink the light; I am the air of the green things’ breathing; I am the stone that the trees break asunder; I am the molten heart of the world—”
“NO!” came his scream from beyond the wall of trees, hating, raging, desperate. But Nita felt no fear. It was as it had been in the Beginning; all his no’s had never been able to stand against life’s I Am. All around her trees and stones and flesh and metal burned with the power that burned her, self-awareness, which death can seem to stop but can never keep from happening, no matter how hard it tries.
“Where will you go? To what place will you wander?” she asked sorrowfully, or life asked through her, hoping that the lost one might at last be convinced to come back to his allegiance. Of all creatures alive and otherwise, he had been and still was one of the mightiest. If only his stubborn anger would break, his power could be as great for light as for darkness—but it could not happen. If after all these weary eons he still had not realized the hopelessness of his position, that everywhere he went, life was there before him…. Still she tried, the ancient words speaking her solemnly “… in vale or on hilltop, still I am there…”
Silence, silence, except for the rising wind. All things seemed to hold their breath to hear the words; even the dark rider, erect again on his iron steed and bitter of face, ignoring the tumult around him. His eyes were only for Nita, for only her reading held him bound. She tried not to think of him, or of the little time remaining before the Moon went out, and gave herself over wholly to the reading. The words shook the air and the earth, blinding, burning.
“Will you sound the sea’s depth, or climb the mountain? In air or in water, still I am there; Will the earth cover you? Will the night hide you? In deep or in darkness, still I am there; Will you kindle the nova, or kill the starlight? In fire or in death-cold, still I am there—”
And the Moon went out.
As the power began again to read her, she could hear it reading Kit, too, his voice matching hers as it had in their first wizardry, small and thin and brave, and choked with grief like hers. The power was burning in her tears, an odd hot feeling as she wept for Fred, for Kit’s Lotus, for everything horrible that had happened all that day—all the fair things skewed, all the beauty twisted by the dark Lone Power watching on his steed. If only there were some wayhe could be otherwise if he wanted to!
For here was his name, a long splendid flow of syllables in the Speech, wild and courageous in its own way—and it said that he had not always been so hostile; that he got tired sometimes of being wicked, but his pride and his fear of being ridiculed would never let him stop. Never, forever, said the symbol at the very end of his name, the closed circle that binds spells into an unbreakable cycle and indicates lives bound the same way.
Kit was still reading. Nita turned her head in that nova moonlight and looked over her shoulder at the one who watched. His face was set, furious and bitter, but yes, weary too. He knew he was about to be cast out again, frustrated again, and he knew that because of what he had bound himself into being, he would never know fulfillment of any kind. Nita looked back down to the reading, feeling sorry even for him, opened her mouth and along with Kit began to say his name—
Don’t be afraid to make corrections!
Whether the voice came from her memory or was a last whisper from the blinding new star far above, Nita never knew. But she knew what to do. While Kit was still on the first part of the name she pulled out her pen, her space pen that Fred had saved and changed, and clicked it open.
The metal still tingled against her skin, the ink at the point still glittered oddly—the same glitter as the ink with which the bright Book was written. Nita bent quickly over the Book and, with the pen, in lines of light, drew from that final circle an arrow pointing upward, the way out, the symbol that said change could happen—if, only if—and together they finished the Starsnuffer’s name in the Speech, said the new last syllable, made it real.
And the wind died.
‘In Life’s name, and for Life’s sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so—till Universe’s end.’