There's a bit of a funny story behind this book, Diane Duane was one of my two favorite authors when I was in middle school/early high school (the other being Tamora Pierce) but I almost forgot about her in recent years since she just wasn't writing that much. This is the second most recent entry in the Young Wizard series, one that started a good half decade before I was even born (1984) and it's from 2005 but I think I didn't read it until 2006 or 10th grade. I believe that on my to-read list I had listed the sequel to this, A Wizard of Mars, under "will read if it ever comes out" and only discovered early this summer that it had in fact finally come out, last year. After feeling a little ashamed for not realizing that sooner I eventually found time to get a copy of this book out of the local library to reread first. Some might think it's crazy that I would reread a 500+ page book before reading another book of equal size but I was really afraid that some parts of this book would be important later on and that I'd be lost.
Speaking of which, the Young Wizards series is unusual for me because it doesn't have an overarching plot that connects all the individual books (each of them is pretty self-contained) but, looking back on the series, I do see a myth arc of sorts that is starting to show just why these adventures of our protagonists are important enough to focus on. So if you want to read this series you should start at the beginning (the proper place to start with any story), although I am hesitant to recommend a nine book series series since I bet that so many people will simply be scared off by the length.
Wizards at War by Diane Duane
This cover amazingly enough actually looks and feels like the other covers in the series (erm, some of the newer ones, this series has had tons of covers) and I'm impressed. Gives away a little bit of the plot (warning, giant bugs involved) but it's not a huge spoiler so I'm okay with it.
Summary: Continuing with the same characters from the previous book, A Wizard's Holiday, the characters discover the reason for some character's mysterious absence in the previous book, dark matter is expanding across the universe faster than ever and threatens to destroy everything, including people's belief in their wizardy. The gang is sent across the galaxy chasing a mysterious clue that might be the key to stopping this problem and it might have an even greater affect on the whole universe.
The Good: While the story is fantasy, the fact that the word wizard is in nearly every title is a good clue, it's a strange science-fiction-fantasy hybrid because of the setting (a good half of the cast in this book are aliens and the magic always feels rather precise and scientific) which I like and I've never found another book quite like it. That I had remembered over the years but I was pleasently surprised at just how much I still loved the characters (especially the leads, Kit and Nita) and how much I still connected with them. They act and react the way I would, have very human faults without having too many faults and they are witty without being overwritten. The story didn't have as many "mundane situation with a wizardly twist" moments as some of the other books have, some of which are my favorite scenes of all time* but this was a more serious book overall so I'm sure there will be more of those moments in future books.
The Bad: One problem I do have with the characters is that they are apparently way younger than I remembered, I believe Kit and Nita are only 14 (with Darine at 13, not sure of Carmela and Rohan's ages) and it reminds me of an old pet peeve, which I don't see as often these days, where the characters act like mature, older teens who are just about to become young adults, except they're barely teenagers. I could have misread but honestly in my mind I've simply aged the characters up a few years anyway (also, almost three years have passed in-story since the beginning which means that Kit and Nita would have to be closer to 15 anyway based on what earlier ages I remember). Also, I am starting to get worried about how long this series will run since the longest YA series I've ever read was 10 books long (Pendragon) yet this series seems to be aiming for even more, will this series be able to have a good, conclusive ending if it's structured like this?
So, despite my worries for the series as a whole, I really do enjoy all the books in it, I love to see how the characters and their dynamics have grown over time and I'm pretty eager to be reading the next book with a tenth on the way.
*specifically Kit's arguments with his DVD player/remote at the beginning of the sixth book, hell anything to do with his tv is hilarious.