Mark Reads ‘So You Want to Be a Wizard’: Chapter 3, Part I

In the third chapter of So You Want to Be a Wizard, Manhattan is incredible, and so are TREES. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.



I guess it’s time for me to admit that I’m a nerd about nature. Perhaps that geekiness is not that intense, but I’ve always loved being outside. I’ll speak more about it later, but I know that comes from a strict upbringing. I was denied the chance to be an explorer as a kid, and thus, it’s been very hard to keep me in one spot. I was lucky enough to get an appreciation for trail running because of six years of cross country, but it always went further than that. I loved hiking; I loved visiting national and state parks; and I desperately, desperately wanted to go to all the places I saw in the encyclopedia set my parents bought for the family.

We had a tree in the front yard of the house I lived in for a short time in Boise, and I remember feeling so proud when I could finally scramble up to the first big branch and sit on it, my feet dangling precariously below me. Getting down was another issue, and I’ve never been quite as good at going in the opposite direction. But I loved that tree, and when we moved down to Southern California, I was sad to discover that there were no trees to climb on the whole property.

Years later, while on tour, I went back to my old house in Boise, and the tree was gone.

I was a solitary kid for most of my adolescence and teenage years, and like Nita and probably a whole lot of you, I spent a great deal of time sitting by myself under trees. Reading books. Watching other kids have a good time during lunch. Thinking. Gods, now I’m remembering the tall cypress trees at my middle school and how they all sat at the edge of the grounds, raining leaves down on us on those days when the Santa Ana winds would sweep past us. I spent a great deal of time there because no one else hung out around those trees. Damn, what if I could talk to them like Nita does? What if they’re still there and what if they still remember me and all the other kids who sought solace from a cruel world underneath their branches?

Y’all, there is some cool shit in this book.

It had been a long time ago, according to her manual, that the trees had gone to war on humankind’s behalf, against dark powers that wanted to keep human intelligence from happening at all. The war had been a terrible one, lasting thousands of centuries – the trees and other plants taking more and more land, turning barren stone to soil that would support them and the animals and men to follow; the dark powers breaking the soil with earthquake and mountain building, scouring it with glaciers, climate-changing good ground for desert, and burning away forests in firestorms far more terrible than the small brushfires any forest needs to stay healthy. But the trees and the other plants had won at last.

THE WORLD BUILDING IN THIS PARAGRAPH ALONE BLOWS MY MIND. There is just such a massive scope to this book, and I love the heartbreaking idea that plants fought for human life – particularly the trees – knowing full well what would come. Humanity would arrive and, in short order, we would grossly misuse the very planet we were so lucky to have. We would harm and destroy the same living things that had fought to allow our existence. And yet, the trees still fought that battle. IS YOUR HEART IN A MILLION PIECES YET. No? Well.

As for you – and its voice became very gentle – how else should our children climb to the stars but up our branches? We made our peace with that fact a long time ago, that we would be used and maybe forgotten. So be it. What you learn in your climbing will make all the life on this planet greater, more precious. You have your own stories to write. And when it comes to that, who writes the things written in your body, your life? And who reads?

I JUST WANT TO RUN OUTSIDE AND GO HUG A TREE, OKAY? What an incredible message for Nita to hear so early into her life of wizardry. Her curiosity will help enable her climb, and it’ll better everyone in the process. It’s such an affirming thing to hear, and what a crucial time to hear it!


New York City has not lost its appeal for me. While my plans last year to move there were derailed, I still intend to make my way east in the near-ish future. I’ve wanted to live there since the first time I went there, well over a decade ago. There is simply no place like it on earth, and alongside New Orleans, it’s my favorite place in this country. (Well… Hawaii is up there, too, damn it.) (DON’T MAKE ME DO THIS.) I still get chills when I see that skyline in the distance, either from a plane or a train. Now, I know I’m an outsider and that New Yorkers certainly don’t have the same opinions of the city as I do. Like, I know everyone hates the MTA and for very, very, very valid reasons, but IT IS THE MOST PERFECT LOVELY THING TO ME. 24 hour service? I can get pretty much anywhere I want? You have monthly passes? (After five years in the Bay Area with multiple transit systems and having to pay-as-you-go ALL THE TIME, I must remind you that even extremely expensive passes are better than the hundreds of dollars I had to spend a month to commute.) IT’S ON, I LOVE IT.

(Though even I know the Long Island Railroad is a disaster, and I also haven’t taken the L train in like five years.)

So as Nita, Kit, and Fred all came into Manhattan, I couldn’t help but feel something important was happening. Obviously, this is a huge moment for them as wizards! But what happens prior to this? Kit reveals that he spoke to his dad’s old car, and Nita becomes aware of the thoughts of the train they are on. They’re heading into a city that is, most likely, just as alive as they are. I don’t mean the millions and millions of people who call it home. Doesn’t it make sense that the buildings have thoughts? Weren’t they designed for a specific purpose? Do skyscrapers feel joy for being so tall and mighty? What about Central Park, or the Met, or Trinity Church? If everything is alive, wouldn’t New York City be one of the most alive cities in the world?

That’s such a fun thing to think about, and I’m eager to see if Duane addresses some of this. She manages to make the sounds of life in the city magical, so I can’t wait to see what else she does. I do have questions about the worldgate that is seemingly gone from its supposed location (Does the deli owner know it’s there?), but I wanted this review to focus on the rowan tree and Manhattan more than anything else, mostly so I could convey what a grand time I am having.

Diane Duane is still offering a massive discount on the first 9 books in the Young Wizards series just to this community, so please take advantage of this deal while you still can:

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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