Today I Read…High Wizardry, the New Millennium Edition

HIgh Wizardry NMEToday I read High Wizardry, the new Millennium Edition, by Diane Duane, the third book in the Young Wizards series. You can buy it from her ebookstore here.

Dairine has been jealous that her big sister Nita and Nita’s friend Kit are wizards–after all, Dairine is the huge Star Wars fan! She should get to be a Jedi! But the new computer arrives today, so she’ll forgive Nita for now, because new computer!

But it’s got some kind of weird program on it–something that looks an awful lot like Nita’s wizardry manual. Suddenly Dairine has magic, and a whole universe to explore. So what’s a wannabe-Jedi to do but go hunting for Darth Vader? The problem is, when you go hunting for evil, you’re sure to find it…


This was the book that I thought would need the most updating, since it contains so much technology that has changed over the last 20+ years. However, on reading it the book doesn’t really require as many changes as I thought. The technology functions the same way–it’s more the names and details. For example, instead of listening to a Walkman Nita now uses her mp3 player on the moon. She still listens to Steve Perry, but she adds Coldplay and Pink CDs to her room instead of records. The new computer no longer uses DOS, but it still runs the same programs, just with more familiar names to this generation of readers (most of whom are probably going “what’s DOS?” Be glad you don’t know).

Dairine really becomes a fully fleshed character in this book. In the previous ones, she was the annoyingly smart little sister–here, she is still the annoyingly smart little sister, but she gets to explain why it’s so important for her to be smart. Dairine knows that knowing things can help you understand the universe, and help protect you from getting hurt. Knowledge is power, and Dairine needs to know–reading and computers are her ways to help her know. Fiction, nonfiction, science, mythology, computer science, martial arts–she wants to know, and she wants to know now. And this need gives her a way to connect with the race of computer wizards that she helps to be born–they want to know too, and Dairine gives them everything she has and everything she is, because she understands that need. I think every reader knows that need–just one more chapter, because I need to know what happens next.

Maybe that was the Lone Power’s problem all along–It didn’t like the chapter It was reading, when the other Powers refused to listen to It’s ideas, so It stopped reading the book. It kept peddling It’s ideas about death and pain and loss to all of the species, and It tries to convince the computer wizards to stop all life everywhere instead of letting them change as they will. It’s not until Dairine comes along and convinces them that different life is still life that It is defeated and redeemed and begins to change. I love the Lone Power’s sister–Athena was always my favourite Olympian. She ties together various archetypes and mythologies, and makes it clear that they are the same story, and that the story has been going on for a very long time, and that now it is time for the arc to end–time for the devil to return to heaven and help unmake his work. But the story still isn’t over, because there is a lot of cleaning up to do. It’s a nice idea–that evil can always be redeemed, if good is willing to offer it a chance, and if evil is willing to take that chance.

I’ve been reading and rereading this series for more than 20 years, since I first found So You Want to Be a Wizard in my public library in elementary school. (Yes, I read the Oath out loud. No, I never became a wizard. Yes, I still read it out loud every so often and hope this time it works.) It’s still my favourite, and every time I read the books I think of something new–something I never thought of before, because I am different than the last time I read it. Duane is working on book 10 right now Games Wizards Play, according to the Young Wizards website. There’s no estimated publication date yet, but I can’t wait–but I will, because I know that it will be worth waiting for.


Like so many other human beings, Dairine made her first major decision about life and the world quite early; at the age of three, in fact. She’d seen Nita (then six years old) go away to kindergarten for the first time, and at the end of the day come back crying because she hadn’t known the answers to some of the questions the teacher asked her.

Nita’s crying had upset Dairine more than anything else in her short life. It had instantly become plain to Dairine’s three-year-old mind that the world was a dangerous place if you didn’t know things, a place that would make you unhappy if it could. Right there she decided that she was not going to be one of the unhappy ones.

So she got smart. She started out by working to keep her ears and eyes open, noticing everything. Not surprisingly, Dairine’s senses became abnormally sharp, and stayed that way. She found out how to read by the time she was four… just how, she never remembered: but at five she was already working her way through the encyclopedias her parents had bought for Nita. The first time they caught her at it—reading aloud to herself from a Britannica article on taxonomy, and sounding out the longer words—her mom and dad were shocked, though for a long time Dairine couldn’t understand why. It had never occurred to her that you could use what you knew, use even the knowing itself, to make people feel things… perhaps even to make themdo things.

For fear of her parents getting upset and maybe stopping her, until she was five or so Dairine kept her reading out of their sight as much as she could; for the thought of being kept away from books terrified her. Most of what moved Dairine was sheer delight of learning, the great openness of the world that reading offered her, even though she herself wasn’t free to explore the world yet. But there was also that obscure certainty, buried under the months and years since the decision, that the sure way to make the world work for you was to know everything. Dairine sat home and busied herself with conquering the world.

Eventually it came time for her to go off to kindergarten. Remembering Nita, her parents were braced for the worst, but not at all for Dairine’s scowling, annoyed response when she came home. “They won’t pay attention to what I tell them,” Dairine said. “Yet.” And off she went to read, leaving her mother and father staring at each other.

School went on, and time; and after Dairine sailed her way effortlessly through the first couple of grades, she was put into an advanced track. She knew (having heard a couple of her mother’s phone conversations with the school’s psychiatrist) that her mom and dad were concerned about this. But Dairine had gone out of her way to charm the poor guy, as well as taking time to impress upon him that he wasn’t dealing with some fragile flower, but a strongminded kid who had no intention of letting the older ones in the same track steamroll her. Once the new track placement took effect in third grade, she started to relax a little: having (as it were) received her school’s stamp of approval—as if she needed it—nobody would now find her reading habits unusual.

Then Dairine was able to really let her reading cut loose. Every day after school, she would hit the little local library (right across the street) and soon enough had read everything in the kids’ library downstairs at the rate of about six books a day. Then—after the concerned librarian got permission from Dairine’s parents—she read through the whole adult collection, a touch more slowly. Her mom and dad thought it would be a shame to stifle such an active curiosity. Dairine considered this opinion wise, and kept reading, trying not to think of the time, not too far away, when she would exhaust the adult books (for she wasn’t yet allowed to go to the big township library by herself).Still, you could always order them in by interlibrary loan, and from much further afield… even from the New York Public Library, where there were eight million volumes on tap. Dairine admitted that it might take even her a while to work through all of those.

Then, though, things changed seriously in two very different ways. First, the little local library finally got its computers installed—simple downmarket machines though they were—and its Internet connection going: and her life shifted dramatically as she was released into whole new realms of knowledge, fresh and immediate, that gave even the books a run for their money. And second, Dairine started to notice mass media, and a whole new sheaf of dreams abruptly came alive.

In reading straight through the children’s library she’d ingested a huge number of folk tales and fairy tales. They hadn’t had that much effect on her. But when she first got a taste of the new trilogy of Star Wars movies, a peculiar upheaval took place in her heart; one that made her half crazy until she’d seen all the old ones, and left her desperately excited for the new, even the animated “Clone Wars” film that had just come out. Magic, great power for good and evil, she’d naturally read about in many other places. But the Star Wars movies somehow hit her with a terrible immediacy that the books had not; with a clear picture of power available even to the young sons of slaves or untrained farmboys on distant planets in the future, and therefore surely available to someone who knew things in the present. And if you could learn that supreme knowledge, and master the power that filled and shaped the universe, how could the world ever hurt you? For a good while Dairine’s reading suffered, and her daydreams were full of the singing blaze of lightsabers, the electric smell of blasterfire, and the shadow of ultimate evil in a black cloak, which after terrible combat she always defeated. Her sister teased her a lot less about it than Dairine expected.


She never found out anything about the man who helped her. Nor did he ever find out anything more about her. Pausing by the door of the pay toilet, after being released from station security some hours later, and being telepathically sensitive (as so many hominids are), he could sense only that some considerable power had been successfully exercised there. Satisfied with that, he smiled to himself and went on about his travels, just one more of the billions of hominids moving about the worlds.

But many millions of light-years later, in some baking wilderness under a barren, brilliant sky, a bitterly weary Dairine sat down on a stone and cried for a while in shock at the utter strangeness of the universe, where unexpected evil lives side by side with unexpected kindness, and neither ever seems quite overcome by the other….


Somewhere someone struck a bass gong: the sound of it went on and on, and in the immense sound Dairine fell over, slowly, watching the universe tilt past her with preternatural slowness. Only that brief flicker of her own senses was left her, and the bass note of one of her heartbeats sounding and sounding in her ears. Other senses awakened, filled her full. The feeling of living in a single second that stretched into years came back to her again; but this time she could perceive the life behind the stretched-out time as more than a frantic, penned, crippled intelligence screaming for contact. The manual software had educated the motherboard in seconds as it would have educated Dairine in hours or months; the motherboard had vast knowledge now, endless riches of data about wizardry and the worlds. What it did not have was first-hand experience of emotion, or the effects of entropy… or the way the world looked to slowlife.

Take it. Take it all. Please take it! They have to choose, and they don’t have the data, and I don’t know how else to give it to them, and if they make the wrong choice they’ll all die! Take it!

And the motherboard took: reached into what she considered the memory areas of Dairine’s data processor, and read her total life memory as it had read the manual.

Dairine lay there helpless and watched her life—watched it as people are supposed to see it pass before they die—and came to understand why such things should happen only once. There are reasons, the manual says, for the selectiveness of human memory; the mercy of the Powers aside, experiencing again and again the emotions coupled with memory would leave an entity no time for the emotions of the present moment. And then there is also the matter of pain.

But Dairine was caught in a situation the manual had never envisioned—a human being having her life totally experienced and analyzed by another form of life quite able to examine and sustain every moment of that life, in perfect recall. With the motherboard Dairine fell down into the dim twilight before her birth, heard echoes of voices, tasted for the first time the thumb it took her parents five years to get out of her mouth; lay blinking at a bright world, came to understand light and form; fought with gravity, and won, walking for the first time; smiled on purpose for the first time at the tall warm shape that held her close and said loving things to her without using sound: found out about words, especially No!; ecstatic, delighted, read words for the first time; saw her sister in tears, and felt for the first time a kind of pain that didn’t involve falling down and skinning your knees….

Pain. There was enough of it. Frustration, rage at the world that wouldn’t do what she wanted, fear of all kinds of things that she didn’t understand: fear of things she heard on the news at night, a world full of bombs that can kill everything, full of people hungry, people shooting at each other and hating each other; hearing her parents shouting downstairs while she huddled under the covers, feeling like the world was going to end—will they shoot each other now? Will they have a divorce? Finding out that her best friend is telling other kids stories about how she’s weird, and laughing at her behind her back; finding that she’s actually alone in the world when she thought she had at least a couple of people to stand beside; making new friends, but by force, by cleverness and doing things to make her popular, not because friends come to her naturally; making herself slightly feared, so that people would leave her alone to do the things she wants to without being hassled. Beating her fists against the walls of life, knowing that there’s more, more, but she can’t figure out what it is: then finding out that someone knows the secret.Wizardry. And it doesn’t come fast enough, it never comes fast enough, nothing ever does…. and now the price is going to be paid for that, because she doesn’t know enough to save these lovely glassy creature, her buddies, that she watched be born… helped be born… her children, sort of. She doesn’t know how to save them, and they’re going to be dead, everything’s going to be dead: pain!

It hurts too much, Dairine thought, lying there listening to her heartbeat slowly begin to die away. It hurts, I didn’t want them to get hurt! But it was part of the data, and it was too late now: the motherboard had it, and all the mobiles would have it too, the second she released Dairine. Why should they care about slowlife now? she thought in anguish and shame at the bitter outrush of what her life had been. Cruelty, pettiness, selfishness almost incredible— But too late now. The motherboard was saving the last and newest of the data to permanent memory. Any minute now the mobiles would start the program running and entropy would freeze, and life would stop being a word that had a meaning. The last nanosecond crawled by, echoes of the save rolled in the link. Nothing ever comes fast enough: end of file…

Dairine lay still and waited for it all to end.


Kit sighed. “I wish Peach were here, we could have asked her.”

There was a brief silence. “Oh,” said a voice, “I’m not that easy to get rid of.”

And she was in the midst of them. Not Picchu. Or—was it not? The presence among them now might look human, though very tall, and she might not be winged… but there was still a sense of swiftness about her, rather like the sense you got about Picchu when you realized she was going to make a grab at your sandwich and either get a piece of it, or a piece of you. Swiftness, and power, and extreme beauty, so that Dairine and Nita were abashed, and both they and Kit stared at the new apparition with all their eyes. All this in a person burning even brighter than the light around them, and about nine feet tall; a person wearing a sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up, and blue jeans and sneakers, a person with long dark hair, and a sword naked in her hand, and the sword burning; and the fire of the sword and the fire of the sky were the same.

“You’re kidding,” Dairine said.

The woman laughed. “Often. But not at the moment.”

“You were Picchu?” Kit said.

“I’ve been a lot of people. You’d be surprised at the names.” She looked down with concern at the Lone One, who lay like a shadow on the burning ground. “But rarely have those namings turned out so well.”

This was a bit much for Nita. “You’re one of the Powers, aren’t you? We dragged You halfway across the Universe and busted our guts when You could have— Why didn’t You do something sooner?”

“We have been, for billions of years,” She said. “But We couldn’t do anything really permanent until Dairine got here.”

Dairine’s jaw dropped.

“And now,” She said, “if My brother here is amenable, We can start getting work done at last.”

Kit stared at her. “Your brother? Not much of a resemblance.”

“I told you I’ve been called by a lot of names.” She knelt down by the shadowy form that lay collapsed on the brightness. “Nearly as many as he’s been. Athene was one of mine. And Thor. And Prometheus. And Michael.”

“But you’re a girl!”

Nita threw Kit a wry look. The Power grinned. “These things are relative,” she said. “But even in your world it’s a byword. Men will fight bravely and be heroes, but for last-ditch defense against any odds… get a Mother.” She smiled. “Ask Dairine.”

Dairine, wiping her eyes, grinned back.

“I was the Winged Defender,” She said. “He was my twin brother, the beautiful one. Then… the disagreement happened, and there was war in Heaven, and all the roles changed. I led the others in casting Him out.” She shook her head sadly. “But I always wanted Him back… as did all the other Powers as well. So my role changed again. I became Prometheus, and many another. I was sent to you again and again, to put the Power in your hands: wizardry, and other powers. I never had to steal it: it was given me—from what Source, you well know. I had to help undo the evils my brother was doing, and again and again I intervened, in many worlds. But We had a plan: that one day, someone else would intervene, and He would stop doing them himself. All it took was the entropy He himself had invented….”

She looked at Dairine. “Billions of years, it took. All the redemptions there have ever been went toward this; from the greatest to the least. And finally in the fullness of time you came along, and took my role, of your own will, and woke up a race powerful enough to change the whole Universe, and gave them the fire.” She glanced up at the mobiles and smiled. “How could he resist such a bait? He took the gamble: he always does. And losing, he won.”

“He killed you, though,” Kit said.

“I struck him down once. I had to come where he could do the same to me, without my doing anything to stop him. Now the balance is even.”

The Defender reached down and put a hand into the shadow. “And we are going where such matters are transcended… where all his old pains will shift. Not forgotten, but transformed. Life in this universe will never have such a friend. And as for His inventions… look closely at Death, and see what it can become.”

The long, prone darkness began to burn, from inside, the way a mountain seems to do with sunset. “Brother,” the Defender said. “Come on. They’re waiting.”

The light began to shift. Nita looked up and around in wonder. The planet seemed to be going transparent around them. Or not specifically transparent: it was as if, one by one, other vistas were being added to it; seacoasts, forests, landscapes she couldn’t understand, cities, empty spaces that were dark and yet burned; ten other worlds, twenty, a hundred, in an ever deepening overlay that enriched without confusing. Alternate universes? Nita thought, and then thought perhaps not: it was too simple an explanation….

She looked at the Defender and found the same change and enriching in Her, and in the steadily brighter-burning form She bent over. Nita felt inclined to squeeze her eyes shut, not from pain but from a feeling of sheer insufficiency, of being involved in matters too high for her. “Never think it,” said the Defender, beneficent lightnings flickering about Her as other forms and other attributes came and went in glory; “never think We were made to be less than equals in the One. Someday you’ll surpass Us, and still be Our equals, and both You and We will rejoice at it. But later for that. Brother, get up now and see the way home. Let them see what they have triumphed over.”

The Lone Power rose up, slowly, like one discovering walking after a life of lameness. And Kit and Nita and Dairine all gazed, and speech left them. Nita’s eyes filled with tears as she wondered how darkness could be so bright. Lightbringer He was, and star of the morning; and like the morning star, He needed the darkness, and shone brighter for it.

Today I Read…Deep Wizardry, the New Millennium edition

deep wizardry nmeToday I read Deep Wizardry, the New Millennium edition by Diane Duane, the second in the Young Wizards series. You can find her ebooks for sale here.

After everything that happened in Manhattan the day the sun went out, Nita and Kit are looking forwards to a nice, quiet summer on the seaside. Until they rescue a whale from a pack of hungry sharks. S’reee is responsible for organizing a performance of the Song of Twelve- a re-enactment of the wizardry that bound the Lone One under the waters long ago, which must occasionally be renewed to keep it strong. Nita and Kit agree to participate, before they find out it’s not just a play. The spell must be sealed in blood, specifically the blood of the one playing the role of the Silent Lord–Nita. But if Nita doesn’t get eaten by the Master Shark, the Lone One will escape and millions of people, on the land and in the sea, will die. What’s a thirteen-year-old wizard to do?


I’m finding it really interesting to read the New Millennium Editions. I’ve read all of the original editions, and the earlier ones have always felt a bit out of sync with the later books, since the nine that are currently out were written and published over 20 years. Technology has changed a great deal, and there are some details that get forgotten in between the books that Duane has fixed. For example, Nita wore glasses in the first book, but not in the rest of the series. Deep Wizardry clears it up by explaining that Nita is using wizardry to fix her eyes. A minor point, but it’s nice to tie the books more closely together, especially when you are reading them as a series and not as stand-alone novels. It also explains why Nita and Kit don’t just use cell phones (the beach is a no-signal area), which would be today’s reader’s first question when someone is looking for the pair.

This whole series really examines the idea of choice and personal responsibility. Nita is warned to read the fine print, but she agrees to participate in the Song of Twelve and to play the role of the Silent Lord without realizing that it is not a play, it is a re-enactment, and that whoever plays the Silent Lord really does die. Nita is 13–she doesn’t want to die, she is frantic to find a way to live, but if she doesn’t do what she promised she would do, millions of people will die. Is her life worth millions of other lives? Maybe she didn’t understand the promise that she made at the time, but she still promised. She was old enough to take the Oath of wizardry, to take the Oath of the Song of Twelve–she is old enough to face the consequences.

And sometimes people die. They do it all the time, as Carl points out. Dying is easy. And it’s not fair. But that’s what wizards are supposed to fight against–the death that isn’t fair, the fear and pain and anger and loneliness that the Lone Power created and forced upon the worlds. Taking his weapon and making it your own–that’s what the Silent Lord did, and it bound Him for thousands of years. Doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid.


“I won’t take quite that long,” S’reee said. “You know about the Great War of the Powers, at the beginning of everything; and how the Lone Power invented death and pain, and tried to impose them on the whole universe, and the other Powers wouldn’t let It, and threw It out.”

“Even regular human beings have stories about it,” Kit said. He took off his windbreaker and shook it out, mostly on Nita.

“Hardly surprising,” S’reee said. “Everything that lives and tells stories has this story in one form or another. Well, after that war in the Above and Beyond, the Lone Power spent a long while in untraveled barren universes, recouping Its strength. Then It came back to our native universe, looking for some quiet, out-of-the-way place to try out Its new inventions. If there is such a thing, chance brought it here, where because thinking life was very new, this world was vulnerable. And the only place thinking life existed yet was the Sea. So the Lone One thought to come here and trick the Sea into accepting Death. Its sort of death, anyway—where all power and love are wasted into an endless darkness, lost forever.”

“Entropy,” Nita said.

“Yes. And any sea people It succeeded in tricking would be stuck with the death, the Great Death, forever. Now there was already a sort of death in the Sea, but only the kind where your body stops. Everyone knew it wasn’t permanent, and it didn’t hurt much; you might get eaten, but you would go on as part of someone else. No one was afraid of not being his own self anymore—I guess that’s the simplest way of putting it. That calm way of life drove the Lone Power wild with hate, and It swore to attach fear and pain to it and make it a lot more interesting.”

S’reee sighed. “The whales’ job then was what it is now: to be masters and caretakers for the fish and other sea life, the way you bipeds are supposed to be for dry-land life. The world being quite young then, the only wizards in the Sea as yet were whales. In fact it was so early on that there were only ten whale-wizards, all Seniors. Ni’hwinyii, they were called, the Lords of the Humors—”

“Oh, like in the old word for emotions,” Kit said. “Not ‘funny’ humor.”

“Exactly. Those ten whales ruled the Sea, under the Powers,” S’reee said. “If the Lone Power wanted to trick the Sea into the Great Death, It had to trick the Ten; then all the life they ruled would be stuck with the Great Death too. So the Lone One went to the Ni’hwinyii in disguise, pretending to be a stranger, a new whale sent to them so that they could decide under which of their Masteries it fell. And as each one questioned the Lone Power, the Stranger-whale offered each of them the thing he wanted most, if he would only accept the ‘Gift’ the Stranger would give him. And he showed them just enough of his power to prove he could do it.”

“Uh-oh,” Kit said softly. “I’ve heard this one before.”

“Apples and snakes…” Nita said.

“Yes. The pattern repeats. One after another, the Lone One tempted the Ten. The Sea was silent then and gave them no advice—some people say that the Powers wanted the Ten to make up their own minds. But however that might have been, three of the Ten took the Gift, and fell. Three of them were undecided. Three of them rejected the Gift. And the Lone Power needed a majority of the Lords to accept Death, or Its victory would only be partial.”

“Those were only nine Lords, though,” Kit said.

‘Yes, and here the Tenth comes in: the Silent Lord, they called her. She was the youngest of them, and each of the other Nine tried to bring her around to his own way of thinking. The Lone One came to her too and tempted her as It had tempted the others. You know, though, that it’s the youngest wizard who has the most power, and where the other Lords were deceived, the Silent Lord wasn’t. She realized what the Stranger was and what It was trying to do.

“She was faced with a difficult choice. She knew that even if she rejected the Stranger, the fighting would only continue among the other Nine. Sooner or later they or their successors would accept the Gift and doom the whole Sea to the Great Death. But she also knew something else that the Sea had told her long before, and that others have found out since. If one knows death is coming—any death, from the small ones to the Great one—and is willing to accept it fully, and experience it fully, then the death becomes something else—a passage, not an ending: not only for oneself, but for others.”

S’reee’s voice got very soft. “So the Silent Lord did that,” she said. “Luck, or the Powers, brought one more creature into the singing, uninvited. It was the one fish over whom no mastery was ever given—the Pale Slayer, whom we call the Master-Shark. The Silent Lord decided to accept the ‘Gift’ that the Stranger offered her—and then, to transform the Gift and make it safe, she gave herself up willingly to die. She dived into a stand of razor coral; and the Master-Shark smelled her blood in the water, and… well.” S’reee blew. “He accepted the sacrifice.”


Must I accept the barren Gift?
Learn death, and lose my Mastery?
Then let them know whose blood and breath
will take the Gift and set them free:

whose is the voice and whose the mind
to set at naught the well-sung Game
when finned Finality arrives
and calls me by my secret Name.

Not old enough to love as yet,
but old enough to die, indeed—
the death-fear bites my throat and heart,
fanged cousin to the Pale One’s breed.

But past the fear lies life for all—
perhaps for me; and, past my dread,
past loss of Mastery and life,
the Sea shall yet give up Her dead!

Glad that wasn’t me back then! Nita thought. I could never have pulled that off… She read down through the next section, the “stage directions” for this sequence of the Song. “The whale singing the Silent One then enacts the Sacrifice in a manner as close to the original enactment as possible, depending on the site where the Song is being celebrated…”


“Nita,” her father said at last, “what are the chances that you could get hurt doing this ‘Song’ business? The truth.”

She looked at him unhappily. “Pretty good,” she said.

“And the same for Kit?” her mother said.

“Just about,” Kit said.

Nita’s father shook his head. “Nita. Look. I understand… no. I sort of understand how you and Kit feel about this. Magic…” He raised his hands, dropped them again, in a helpless gesture. “If someone offered me the chance to be a magician, I’d jump at it…”

“A wizard,” Nita said. And, No, you wouldn’t, she thought. Because if you would have, really, you’d have been offered it! There are never enough wizards.

But her father was still talking. “But this business. Endangering yourself, or endangering Kit— Your mother and I can’t permit it. You’re going to have to bow out.”

For just a moment, as far as Nita was concerned, everything faded out, drowned in a great wash of relief and hope. The perfect excuse. Perfect. My mom and dad won’t let me. Sorry, S’reee, Hotshot, Ed…

Opaque black eyes looked at Nita out of the scene her eager mind was already constructing for her—and hope died. The hair stood up all over Nita—not from fear, but from something more terrible. Without any warning, and for the first time, she understood in her own person what had only been a word to her before: honor. I can’t, she thought. For me—for me—it’s not right.

“Dad,” she said unhappily, “you didn’t get it. I’m sworn to the Song. If I back out now, the whole thing will be sabotaged.”

Her father got up, a sign that he intended this argument to be over shortly. “Come on, Neets. Surely someone else could do it—”


“Nita,” said her mother, looking stern, “you don’t understand. We’re not letting you do this. Or Kit either, while he’s under our roof. You’re going to have to find a replacement. Or the—the whales will. Whoever. You’re not going.”

I must not have said it right, they’re not understanding!“Mom—” Nita said, searching frantically for words. “This isn’t just some cute thing that Kit and I are doing because it’s fun! If we don’t stop the forces that are beginning to move, there are going to be massive earthquakes all up and down the East Coast. That’s not a maybe. It’s a will! You think the Island would survive something like that? The whole place is nothing but rocks and trash the glaciers dumped in the ocean; it’ll break up and wash away like a sandcastle at high tide! And what about Manhattan? It’s got four unstable geological faults of its own, right through the bedrock! And none of the buildings there are earthquake-proof. One quake’ll leave the place looking like somebody kicked over a pile of blocks!” Nita was waving her arms in the air now, so upset that she was beyond caring whether she looked silly or not. “Millions of people could die—”

“Could,” her father said, seizing on the word. He was pacing now.

Kit shook his head. “Will,” he said. There was such a weight of certainty and misery on the word that Nita’s father stopped pacing, and her mother closed her mouth, and they both stared at Kit in amazement.

“You’re saying,” Kit said, gazing at them out of eyes suddenly gone dark and fierce, “that you don’t care whether ten million people, more than ten million people, would die, just so long as we two don’t get hurt.”

Nita’s mother spluttered, to Nita’s great satisfaction. That one had sunk in. “No, we aren’t, we just—”

“You don’t even care that ten million people might die,” Nita said. “Just so Kit and I are okay, you’re willing to run that risk.”

“No, I—” Nita’s father saw what was being done to him. “Young lady, no more out of you! Just the quakes going on off the coast now, by the reports we’ve heard, are too dangerous for you to be down there.”

“Daddy, believe me, we’ve survived a lot worse!”

“Yes—and your mother and I didn’t know about it then! Now we do.” Her father turned away. “The answer is no,and that’s final!”

From many fights Nita had overheard between her folks, Nita knew that when her dad said that, it never was. “Daddy,” she said. “I’m sorry. I really am. I love you, and I wish like anything I could do what you want. But Ican’t.”

“Nita!” There was that rage again, full-blown, worse than before. Her father was on his feet, standing right over her, glaring at her. “You will do as I tell you!”

Hot all over, Nita shot to her feet—standing on the chair—and in sheer desperation shouted right back in his face.“Don’t you get it? There are some things in the world more important than doing what you tell me!”

Her father and mother stared at her, absolutely stunned. Nita stood there gasping, stunned herself.

“Besides,” Kit said quietly from out of her range of vision, “how would you stop us?”

Nita’s father turned away to stare at Kit now.

“Look,” Kit said. “Mr. Callahan, Mrs. Callahan—we gave our word that we’d do this.” What is this ‘we’? Nita thought, bemused. “And the wizardry we’re doing is mainly directed against the One who invented the broken promise. Breaking our word will play right into Its hands and cause a lot of people to die, at best. Maybe destroy this world, sooner or later, at worst.”

“But we have only your word on that!” Nita’s mother said.

“Yeah. But isn’t our word any good? And why would we lie to you about this? Considering that we’re going through all this crap for the sake of telling you the truth.”

Nita’s mother closed her mouth.

“She didn’t have to tell you,” Kit said, sounding angry for the first time. “But it would’ve been lying, in a way—and Nita thinks you’re worth not lying to.” He paused, then said, “I do too. We may just be kids, but we’re old enough to tell the truth. And to take it. Are you?”

Today I Read…Not On My Patch

Today I read Not On My Patch, a Young Wizards short story written by Diane Duane for UNICEF for Hallowe’en 2011. not on my patch

Nita, Kit, Dairine, and Ronan were just planning a fun night out trick-or-treating and checking out the town’s haunted house. After all, it was set up this year by Tom and Carl, their good friends and local Senior Advisory wizards, so it’s sure to be magical. The Nita’s jack-o-lantern tells her that something’s wrong in the field he was picked from. They wanted a night off–instead they got zombies. Sometimes a wizard just can’t catch a break.


Diane Duane is one of my favourite authors, and this is a great addition to her Young Wizards universe. Even on a holiday, wizards can’t have a day off from fighting evil.All they can do is defeat it as quickly as they can and go back to their candy. Told with Duane’s characteristic quick wit, this story really emphasizes that saving the world is all in a night’s work for these young wizards, even though it is a job that they will never take lightly or for granted. And remember, pumpkins are people too. Well, they are if you’re a wizard with a specialty in talking to plants. You know what I mean.


Nita snickered very softly, but then turned her attention back to the pumpkin. Better get on with this… she thought. She picked up the knife, and then hesitated yet again.

“What’s with you?” Ronan said as he emptied the trick-or-treat bag out on the table and began going through the contents. “You look like the reluctant axe murderer.”

Nita groaned under her breath and sat down in the chair at the end of the table. “I just don’t know if this is … strictly ethical.”

Kit pulled out a chair too and fiddled with his frock coat for a moment so that he could avoid sitting on it and messing it up. “You know,” he said, “you could always ask the pumpkin how it feels.”

She had in fact been avoiding this, nervous about what answer she might get. But there’s no avoiding it, I guess; pretty soon we’re going to have to get moving… Nita put out a hand and ran it once more over the scratchy veiny skin around the pumpkin’s stem. “Excuse me,” she said in the Speech, “but… exactly how are you about this?”

There was a brief pause while the pumpkin got its vegetable consciousness wrapped around the idea that someone was speaking to it, let alone someone who would be able to understand the response. This what? the pumpkin said.

Nita hesitated. “I’m about to stick a knife in you,” Nita she said after a moment, “cut off your top, and scoop out your insides with a spoon.”

There was another pause. Your point being? said the pumpkin.

Nita blinked, as she was generally used to more energetic responses from plant life. But then, those are mostly still growing in the ground… “Well, isn’t there some chance this might hurt you?”

Haven’t felt a thing since I got pulled off the vine, said the pumpkin. Just been taking it easy since then. It paused, for a bit longer this time. Besides, it said after a few moments more, it’s autumn, isn’t it? I’m supposed to die now. It’s all about the seeds, after all. I rot… but the seeds don’t. Some of them will come up. Then I’ll wake up in one of them, maybe more.

“So you really don’t mind if I cut off your top and pull your insides out and carve a face in you,” Nita said, still just slightly incredulous.

Well, what’s it all for?

“Celebrating the time of year,” Nita said. “The autumn. The year’s end … and the new beginning, I guess.”

Ronan nodded. “That’s what it meant when we invented it,” he said.

If a pumpkin could have shrugged, this one would have.Then do it. I don’t mind being part of a celebration, and maybe it’ll be fun to have a face.


After a little while a tall shape came out the back door and made its way over to her through the shadows. “So tell me,” Carl said, “how’s it look?”

“Really great,” Nita said. “I didn’t know you two were so into this.”

“Well, why not?” Carl said. “If you spend all the rest of the year fighting the serious Powers of Eeeeevil, then sometimes you just want to spend a little time enjoying the harmless kind of spooky stuff. Keeping the old traditions alive…while making it plain that fewer and fewer of the old ploys the Lone Power used have so much fun scaring us with will work any more: not for anything serious. Sure, it comes up with new ones all the time…”

“But laughing at the old ones still gets under Its skin.”

“Way under,” Carl said, “since it really, really hates not being taken seriously…” He looked back at the house. “But who doesn’t like being safely scared, occasionally? Pleasantly scared, by something that can’t really hurt you?” He grinned as an eldritch howl came floating out one of the upstairs windows, accompanied by the shrieks and then the laughter of small children. “It starts getting you used to fear… so when you come up against something really scary, you can cope a little better.”

“Like being vaccinated,” Nita said. “The weakened bugs make you immune…”

“A useful metaphor,” Carl said, over more of the upstairs screaming. He grinned in the dark. “I should get back in there: some of those spells have to be reset after they fire a few times.” He patted Nita on the shoulder, vanished into the dark again.


She turned her attention back to the tattered, rotted-looking shapes lurching toward them. “Willing followers of the Fallen,” she said, pulling up one of the shortest of the formal demon-management notifications, “be warned by me! We are on the business of the Powers that Be, and by Their power vested in us, unless you disperse forthwith to your own places, we will utterly undo and abolish you!”

The zombies paused—

And kept coming.

“Last warning, you guys!” Nita said, holding Jackie up. “I’ve got a pumpkin, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

Can’t read anything when your nose is pointed straight up

This article came out a few weeks ago, and after careful consideration of all sides of the story–I’m still mad.

Really? You’ve never read these books, you don’t intend to read these books, you have no idea what they’re about, but you know for an absolute fact that they’re not worth your time and have nothing worthwhile in them that could possibly amuse you or make you think? After all, as an adult, you know everything, right? Oh, they’re good enough for kids, since of course kids are incapable of understanding or appreciating “the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.” But not for [sticks nose in the air and assumes a haughty and mildly constipated expression] adults.

Now, not all YA/children’s books are good. I hate Twilight- I couldn’t get past chapter 3 before I wanted to kill Bella just to stop the whining. And that was before she met Mr.Sparkly Pants- I have massive issues with that highly abusive relationship storyline and Bella’s complete lack of characterization or development over the entire series. However, despite not being able to finish the book (and I read Harlequins and made it through all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars), I still know what it’s about, what happens, themes, etc. I have reasons for calling it Twicrap.

That said, I did love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, the other two highly popular series the writer mentioned. The Harry Potter books aren’t the greatest and most original works of art ever created, but they’re a very solid story told well. The characters develop, explore their world, learn and grow and make the reader think alongside them. The Hunger Games is a reimagining of Greek mythology blended with Roman history-Theseus and the Athenian sacrifices to the Bull of Crete presented as Roman gladitorial games to entertain and control the masses. Gosh, those stories go back about 3,000 years and they were written for adults, weren’t they?

A good story is a good story. And if it is truly good, then it will stand the test of time. I started reading Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series about 20 years ago, and I’ve reread it at least once a year since. Every time I read it, I find something new to think about, because I have grown and changed and I have a different perspective on what the characters go through. The fifth book,The Wizard’s Dilemma,argued that if you have sworn to respect and defend all life, then that includes life you don’t like, such as the cancer that was killing the main female character’s mother. Cancer cells do what they are meant to do-they grow and live and multiply. You can’t really blame them for that. When I first read this, I had sympathy for Nina, but I thought the book had a point. I felt much differently when my grandmother died of pneumonia. It’s a disease, it’s alive, but I didn’t feel much respect for its life at the time.

I’m not even getting into the argument for parents, teachers, child psychologists, social workers, or anyone else who interacts with children or young adults on a regular basis to know what their children are reading and learning. Or writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, or librarians (hi!) for whom reading YA books is their job, an argument which Joel Stein also forgets about.

So to conclude this rant, mind your own business Joel and quit reading over my shoulder, because the sniffing is distracting me from Alanna of Trebond learning to deal with bullies and Cimorene of Linderwall refusing to marry someone she doesn’t like and Hermione is trying to study.

Also (I lied, little bit more rant), many of the comments on this article mentioned C.S. Lewis’ fantastic quote on adulthood, which is completely spot-on, so I’m going to add it in here. /endrant

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”  ―    C.S. Lewis