Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: A Wizard of Mars

In case some people missed it, I made a post earlier about how I'm having to change up my schedule again so this is going to be the last book review for a while. But I'm glad I'm ending on a book I really liked and it was also the perfect book for me to read write before NaNoWriMo, something I loved and that made me want to try and write something just as good.

Quick note before the review though, since I have no idea if this is a good thing or a bad thing, I complained in the previous volume that the characters acted much too old for their age and I was confused how they were still so young. It appears I had the timeline wrong and that's why I was confused by their ages and Kit and Nita acted much more like 14 or 15 year olds in this volume but the age thing still bothers me, almost moreso since there's a weird dissonance between this volume and the previous volume in the series now.

A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane
 The cover fits in very well with the covers in the rest of the series with showing a few of the characters (I believe here we see Ronan, Kit, and Darryl) silhouetted against a colorful scene from the book. I think they're even still using the same font for the covers so I like this continuity.

Summary: Set a few months after Wizards at War, it's summer vacation time and Kit has a new project to work on, Mars. He's been obsessing over it for months, which has everyone teasing him over it, and it looks like there is finally something happening up on the surface of the red planet. Nita meanwhile is developing her visionary talent and still acting as a mediator between her father and her sister and it's those distractions that keep her from immediately noticing that something isn't right with Kit these days.....

The Good: It was nice to see old side characters appear in W@W and some who only had a few scenes got more time here which was very nice and added some continuity to the series. Carmela, Kit's sister who many people are quick to label as a Mary Sue, seems to have her role better defined in this book and has some of the better "ordinary life meets magic" moments (which are my favorite part of the series by far). The book also manages to still feel like a strange mish-mash of fantasy and science fiction (magic is clearly fantasy but the setting, the characters and even the magic itself seems more like sci-fi) and the new world building introduced was rather neat. And again, Nita is one of my favorite protagonists because she thinks the way I do which is always fun to read, although that brings up the age issue again since I'm more than a bit older than her at this point.

The Bad: After the high stakes in the previous book this book felt a little, quiet which was off-putting. Yes there was adventure and high stakes but the stakes just never felt that high so I just felt confused when reading parts of it. I had also heard that the book was a great deconstruction of the "invasion from Mars" sub-genre of science-fiction, which I'll admit I'm not too familiar with, but the book didn't feel like a deconstruction of anything, maybe it pointed out how silly the outfits writers thought that Martians would wear were but I don't feel like that needed pointing out. I also felt like several things in the book didn't happen early enough in order to create the conflict and that also bothered me, restricting some of the characters so others can make dumb mistakes feels like a reverse deus ex machina and I just didn't like it.

I really did enjoy this book and it got me pumped for doing NaNo, don't get me wrong there, but I don't think it was one of the strongest entries in the series (my favorite is the fourth book, A Wizard Abroad, where Nita spent a month in Ireland, I could probably do a whole blog post on the resurgence of Ireland in YA fantasy actually). The next book, Games Wizards Play, I believe is due out next year and a compilation of short stories (that you can choose to buy e-book versions of first, a new one each month for a year) should also be out next year so hopefully I'll like those a bit more. 

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