Some series are well-mapped out, time limited sorts of things, like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials. Others begin and become an author’s bread and butter then never, ever end, like The Magic Treehouse. And then there’s a strange third way, the series that seems to add another volume at random intervals, like Diane Duane’s Young Wizards.
I’m a huge fan of this young adult series, but it hasn’t fully satisfied me in the last few books. However, diving back into the storyline in A Wizard of Mars, I was reminded how much I love the main characters, Nita and Kit. The world of the books, with its strange melding of magic and theoretical physics and broad themes about good and evil is a complex and interesting one. Others have compared them to Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time, which is a flattering but fair comparison in my opinion.
This book started very slow and I felt like in the opening chapters Diane Duane had just brought back every character from the previous volumes to satisfy fan interest, which annoyed me. There were also several storylines and themes that didn’t fully pay off for me. Both Nita and Kit face issues at home with their families that aren’t resolved. A subplot about Nita’s sister, Dairine, seems to be nothing more than a dead end or a buildup for a future book. Speaking of sisters, one wonders if the whole deal with Kit’s sister, Carmela, will ever get explained. Recurring mentions and thoughts about gender differences feed into the larger plot but also don’t fully get explored.
But despite any issues, the action picked up midway through when the focus went squarely back to Nita and Kit and the book became a very quick read. I like how the issues Kit and Nita face are slowly becoming less black and white as they age from book to book, as well as more about working with others in the larger world. The plot cleverly explores all our stereotypes about Mars. And finally, I think anyone who has enjoyed this series will be pleased with the ending. It’s not the classic that the first book, If You Want to Be a Wizard, is, but it’s a strong entry into the series.