Originally posted 07-16-10 in my meta/review blog.
It should be noted that I am generally not shy about scouting for books in the Young Adult section, even if I’m very far from being a “young” adult. Especially if the young adult novel in question has been written by one of my favorite authors, Diane Duane. The latest installment of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series takes us (back) to Mars, where a team of wizards is investigating the discovery of a mysterious “message in a bottle” found there. Had there at one time been life on Mars? All signs seem to point toward “yes” when various long dormant wizardries become active, drawing the wizardly explorers–and Kit in particular–into a series of magical tests.
Meanwhile, Kit’s friend and partner Nita Callahan is helping with the exploration in between researching water magic with her friend S’reee and attempting to ride herd on her little sister Dairine who is researching magic related to stars with the father of her still missing not!boyfriend Roshaun. (Whom she has been trying to locate since there’s no precise confirmation that he’s actually dead.) Since this elective course in star wrangling is taking place in another solar system, Nita and Dairine’s dad is less than happy about this, especially since Dairine has been forgetting things like doing her chores. (It’s interesting to see how far Nita and Kit’s families have come since Deep Wizardry–it’s an added plot point that’s always worked into these books, which is a major reason why I have such a strong love of the series.)
We also have some adventures involving Kit’s sister Carmela (who is becoming way to familiar with extra solar tech and the Speech for Kit’s comfort) and their college age sister who has migrated from thinking Kit is in league with the devil to believing that Kit is in league with the X-Men. No. Really. She decides he’s a mutant. It will be interesting to see where Diane Duane is going with the entire Carmela arc. It is very clear that she isn’t going to become a wizard, even if she knows the Speech (and is turning out to be quite the linguist.) In addition, her current career goal is apparently to be a galactic tourist and professional shopper.
There some interesting themes worked into the story line, and dozens of shout outs to everything from Edgar Rice Borroughs Barsoom to Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, and everything in between. It’s even worked into the plot. Kit ends up getting possessed by the ghost of a wizard from the race that lived on Mars before it was Mars, which is a lot like some of Ray Bradbury’s Mars stories. In addition, the theme of “invaders from Mars” is repeated though not in a way that is too anvil-y to the plot. Other scenes and arcs I liked was finding out about S’reee’s food critic boyfriend, and Mamvish, a saurian wizard species conservationist with an addiction for fresh tomatoes (and a deep exasperation for the komodo dragons she’s been trying to convince into being “rafted” to her home world for decades). This was a great book with a lot of depth and adventure, and recommend both it and the books previous to it.