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The Wizard's Dilemma (digest): The Fifth Book in the Young Wizards Series

The Wizard's Dilemma (digest): The Fifth Book in the Young Wizards Series

5.0 3
by Diane Duane

Not everything can be fixed with magic--young wizards Kit and Nita are having such a tough time coping with adolescence, they go their separate ways. But then Nita gets some bad news: Her mother has cancer, and it may be incurable--by medical or magical means.


Not everything can be fixed with magic--young wizards Kit and Nita are having such a tough time coping with adolescence, they go their separate ways. But then Nita gets some bad news: Her mother has cancer, and it may be incurable--by medical or magical means.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
It's the wonderful world of wizardry, and adolescent spell casters Kit and Nita are about to face their biggest challenges yet in The Wizard's Dilemma, the fifth book in Diane Duane's magical Young Wizards series. Things between Kit and Nita are unusually tense these days, and they find themselves going their separate ways. Neither of them is happy about it, but they plug along as best they can, each of them exploring new realms of wizardly wonder. Then Nita's mother is diagnosed with cancer, throwing Nita's life into a total tailspin. For it seems that neither modern medicine nor ancient magic can cure this deadly disease...unless Nita makes a deal with the devil.

Kit and Nita both bide their time apart by exploring intriguing new alternate universes where things aren't always what they seem and the laws of physics and nature are often askew. In one such universe Nita must wage the ultimate battle for her mother's life, but her longtime nemesis, the Lone Power, is determined to see her fail. The Lone Power, who is in charge of all death throughout the universe, tempts Nita with the promise of a cure for her mother, though it comes at a horrible price. Nita considers making the sacrifice, but she hesitates because she has no guarantee that the Lone Power will hold up its side of the bargain. It turns out she is wise to be suspicious, for the Lone Power is planning a terrible double-cross that could cost Nita everything she values in life. The only person who suspects the truth is Kit, but will he and his faithful canine sidekick, Ponch, be able to find Nita in time to save them all from the Lone Power's revenge?

Duane crafts a wonderfully magical world -- several of them, in fact -- with enough teenage angst afflicting her characters to create strong appeal for readers 12 and older. Younger readers may be drawn to this world of wizardry as well, but several mature themes make parental discretion advisable. (Beth Amos)

Teenaged Nita and Kit had always been ideal partners and talented wizards, able to communicate perfectly and instantly—without disagreement—what they should do. Neither is prepared to deal with adolescent angst, and when they find themselves arguing about the proper spell for a problem, they wind up going their separate ways. Both are uncertain what to do to repair their rift, and new crises further complicate the situation. Nita's work is cut short by bad news—her mother has cancer, which appears incurable by either medical or magical means. Nita finds out that her younger sister Dairine's magic is too uncontrollable to help, and that if Nita is to help her mother, she will have to do it on her own. Nita knows that she is unlikely to learn enough to save her mother and becomes increasingly desperate. Her grave situation makes her vulnerable to the Lone Power—who offers her a Faustian bargain that would change her life and the universe forever. Readers unfamiliar with the first four books in Duane's Young Wizards series might not be as affected by Nita's turmoil but would still be captivated by it. This book can be read on several levels—as a gripping and dynamic fantasy for younger teens and a discussion for older teens about destiny and choice and one person's right to affect other lives. Fans of the author will flock to this new adventure, which likely will bring new readers to the series. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Harcourt, 324p, $17. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Betsy Fraser SOURCE: VOYA,August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
In the fifth book of the series, Nita Callahan is feeling some growing pains. After an argument with Kit Rodriguez, her partner in wizardry, over the best way to conduct a spell, Nita thinks maybe it's time to work alone. Her mother's sudden serious illness seems to clinch the decision as Nita draws on her resources to try to find a cure. Meanwhile, Kit has embarked on his own project, exploring a series of universes, and by the time he finds out about Nita's mother, it's nearly too late for him to help. The pace is well sustained and the characters continue to grow and develop. Duane isn't afraid of the hard questions in life and prefers to face them, as readers will learn. Readers of the series will lap this up, while it stands alone well enough to pique the interest of those who want a break from the nth reading of the Harry Potter books. (Young Wizards, book 5). KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Harcourt, Magic Carpet, 422p., Scanlon
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Now 14, Nita bemoans the fact that she "kept running into problems for which wizardry either wasn't an answer, or else was the wrong one. And even when it was the right answer, it never seemed to be a simple one anymore." School is harder than ever before, and her wizarding partnership with her best friend, Kit, has been under stress, when the ultimate blow comes: her mother has intractable brain cancer. As in earlier books in the series, wizardry is an unusual hybrid of science fiction and fantasy conventions, in which interplanetary aliens and parallel uni-verses coexist with spells and talking trees. In this installment, the two friends each face a dilemma: Kit finds he can retreat forever into his own self-created heaven, but at the cost of giving up the fight against evil. Nita learns she can cure her mother's cancer, but only by sacrificing her powers to the Lone One, the source of all unhappiness in the universe. As the maturing wizards learn in the story's moving conclusion, there are no simple answers to decisions like these. A well-crafted plot, occasional dry humor, and appealing main characters will make this novel popular with readers new to the series as well as with Duane's fans.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In her fifth book in the Wizardry series, Duane (A Wizard Abroad, not reviewed, etc.) continues to raise the stakes for her young wizards-in-training. Nita, adrift in adolescent angst, quarrels with her fellow wizard Kit and threatens to dissolve their partnership. Hurt and puzzled, Kit embarks on an independent investigation into his dog's surprising ability to find and shape new universes. Nita, however, has a more daunting challenge: her mother has been hospitalized with an aggressive brain tumor, and Nita is determined to find a magical cure. But wizardry requires discipline and study, and always has a price. When even a crash course in changing the very laws of nature seems insufficient, a desperate Nita must undergo the ultimate temptation by the Lone Power, the source of death and sworn enemy of all wizards. Frequent references to earlier events and sketchy portrayals of secondary characters might confuse some readers. But at heart this is Nita's story, as she confronts her powerlessness in the face of mortality. Evocative imagery superbly conveys her anguish, determination, rage, and despair. The changing landscapes of various alternate universes provide subtle commentary on each character's physical, emotional, and spiritual state. Duane has the gift of presenting spirituality without sectarianism or sentimentality; and the final showdown between the Lone Power and Nita, Kit, and Nita's mother provides a harrowing but triumphant affirmation of the power of the human spirit. Powerful and satisfying on many levels. (Fiction. 11 )

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Young Wizards Series , #5
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.04(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Friday Afternoon

"Honey, have you seen your sister?"

"She's on Jupiter, Mom."

There was no immediate response to this piece of news. Sitting at a dining room table covered with notebooks, a few schoolbooks, and one book that had less to do with school than the others, Nita Callahan glanced over her shoulder just in time to catch sight of her mother looking at the ceiling with an expression that said, What have I done to deserve this?

Nita turned her head back to what looked like her homework, so that her mother wouldn't see her smile. "Well, yeah, not on Jupiter; it's hard to do that . . . She's on Europa."

Her mother came around and sat down in the chair opposite Nita at the table, looking faintly concerned. "She's not trying to create life again or something, is she?"

"Huh? Oh, no. It was there already. But there was some kind of problem."

The look on her mother's face was difficult to decipher. "What kind?"

"I'm not sure," Nita said, and this was true. She had read the mission statement, which had appeared in her copy of the wizard's manual shortly after Dairine left, but the fine print had made little sense to her¾probably the reason why she or some other wizard had not been sent to deal with the trouble, and Dairine had. "It's kind of hard to understand what single-celled organisms consider a problem." She made an amused face. "But it looks like Dairine's the answer to it."

"All right." Her mom leaned back in the chair and stretched. "When will she be back?"

"She didn't say. But there's a limit to how much air you can carry with you on one of these jaunts if you're also going to have energy to spare to actually get anything done," Nita said. "Probably a couple hours."

"Okay . . . We don't have to have a formal dinner tonight. Everyone can fend for themselves. Your dad won't mind; he's up to his elbows in shrub right now, anyway." The buzz of the hedge trimmer could still be heard as Nita's dad worked his way around the house. "We can take care of the food shopping later . . . There's no rush. Is Kit coming over?"

Nita carefully turned the notebook page she'd been working on. "Uh, no. I have to go out and see him in a little while, though . . . Someone's meeting us to finish up a project. Probably it'll take us an hour or two, so don't wait for me. I'll heat something up when I get home."

"Okay." Her mother got up and went into the kitchen, where she started opening cupboards and peering into them. Nita looked after her with mild concern when she heard her mom's tired sigh. For the past month or so, her mom had been alternating between stripping and refinishing all the furniture in the house and leading several different projects for the local PTA¾the biggest of them being the effort to get a new playground built near the local primary school. It seemed to Nita that her mother was always either elbow deep in steel wool and stain, or out of the house on errands, so often that she didn't have a lot of spare time for anything else.

After a moment Nita heaved a sigh. No point in trying to weasel around it, though, she thought. I've got problems of my own.

Kit . . . But it's not his fault . . . Is it?

Nita was still recovering from an overly eventful vacation in Ireland, one her parents had planned for her, to give Nita a little time away from Kit, and from wizardry. Of course this hadn't worked. A wizard's work can happen anywhere, and just changing continents couldn't have stopped Nita from being involved in it any more than changing planets could have. As for Kit, he'd found ways to be with Nita regardless¾which turned out to have been a good thing. Nita had been extremely relieved to get home, certain that everything would then get back to normal.

Trouble is, someone changed the location of "normal" and didn't bother sending me a map, Nita thought. Kit had been a little weird since she got home. Maybe some of it was just their difference in age, which hadn't really been an issue until a month or so ago. But Nita had started ninth grade this year and, to her surprise, was finding the work harder than she'd expected. She was used to coasting through her subjects without too much strain, so this was an annoyance. Worse yet, Kit wasn't having any trouble at all, which Nita also found annoying, for reasons she couldn't explain. And the two of them didn't see as much of each other at school as they'd used to. Kit, now in an accelerated-study track with other kids doing "better than their grade," was spending a lot of his time coaching some of the other kids in his group in history and social studies. That was fine with her, but Nita disliked the way some of her classmates, who knew she was best friends with Kit, would go out of their way to remind her, whenever they got a chance, how well Kit was doing.

As if they're fooling anyone, she thought. They're nosing around to see if he and I are doing something else . . . and they can't understand why we're not. Nita frowned. Life had been simpler when she'd merely been getting beaten up every week. In its own way, the endless sniping gossip¾the whispering behind hands, and the passed notes about cliques and boys and clothes and dates¾was more annoying than any number of bruises. The pressure to be like everyone else¾to do the same stuff and think the same things¾just grew, and if you took a stance, the gossip might be driven underground . . . but never very far.

Nita sighed. Nowadays she kept running into problems for which wizardry either wasn't an answer, or else was the wrong one. And even when it was the right answer, it never seemed to be a simple one anymore.

Copyright © 2001 by Diane Duane, published by Harcourt, Inc. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

DIANE DUANE is the author of more then twenty science fiction and fantasy novels, including the seven books in the Young Wizards series. She lives in rural Ireland.

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