Way back in 1983 when I was still a kid, I read a great book–So You Want to be a Wizard, by Diane Duane. It was the story of two ordinary kids, Kit and Nita, who find out that they can do magic, and who become members of a whole planetary-wide consortium of wizardry. The wizards of Earth aren’t alone; the whole universe of sentient beings is full of wizardry. The books in the series trickled out slowly over the years, pitting Nita and Kit and a growing cast of characters against the forces of entropy, embodied by the hostile Lone Power.
The young wizards, and their older mentors, work to maintain balance by casting incredibly complex spells that are essentially magical science (no catchy Latin phrases a la Harry Potter here!), keeping the course of life in the universe going as smoothly as possible. Encountering magical cats and magical whales, traveling through space to alien planets, saving the Earth from alien attack, mentoring a race of machine beings, and more have kept the young wizards very very busy over the years. And now, more than thirty years later, the series has a hardcore group of fans, and Diane Duane has revised the earlier books to make them more technologically familiar to kids today.
And yay! After a long wait, Games Wizards Play, the tenth book in the series, has just been released. It is a doorstopper of over 600 pages, and really requires some knowledge of the earlier books to understand what’s happening, so there’s no reason to read it before reading the others. But for those who have read the series, it is great to meet old friends and find them facing new challenges.
The Young Wizards books are perfect for science-loving Harry Potter fans, and Games Wizards Play has especially great appeal for those who want to read about magic being used to help solve real-world problems. The games in the title refer to a planet-wide young wizard science/magic competition, in which wizardly kids construct complex spells with practical applications, with the best project winning. A spell to tame earthquakes; one for taming solar flares, and one to restore the balance of ocean currents disrupted by global warming are just some of the problems, and the details of the technological/magical specifications will especially appeal to kids with a fondness for engineering and hard science. The point of all the magic, with the young wizards working on behalf of the Great Powers in a fight against the entropy of the Lone Power who introduced Death to the cosmos, gives a moral point, almost a religious one, to the adventures; it’s much more than fun and games.
Those who read more for character arcs (family dynamics, young love, growing up) played out over multiple books will not be disappointed either. Games Wizards Play is especially fun for us long term fans who have been mentally urging Kit and Nita towards a romantic relationship to the point of wanting to shake them. Fans of Dairine (Nita’s little sister) will appreciate the page time her point of view gets here, too.
So if your kids haven’t read any of the other books, have them start at the beginning of the series with So You Want to Be a Wizard to enjoy the full effect! The best part about starting a series after the tenth book is published, of course, is that you don’t have to wait years for it to come out.
Games Wizards Play is on shelves February 2.