Mark Reads ‘So You Want to Be a Wizard’: Chapter 6, Part I

In the sixth chapter of So You Want to Be a Wizard, HOW IS THIS BOOK A REAL THING? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards

This has rapidly become a book that’s completely different than the one I started, and I LOVE IT.


I know I discussed it before, but this part confirmed that Duane was very intentional about how she wrote her main antagonist:

“I don’t know… I just don’t get it.”

“What?” She rolled the rowan wand between her hands, watching the way its light shone between her fingers and through the skin.

“He didn’t look evil. Or sound that way, at least not till right at the end there.”

While you can certainly pull a real-world commentary out of this, it’s also a detail that contributes to the worldbuilding. The “Snuffer,” as Fred calls him, was once a beautiful being before he became consumed by hatred. (Reminds me of Lucifer!) And I liked that something so full of hatred and contempt didn’t have to look physically ugly, you know? I also thought it was pretty cool that like the Discworld series, this book addresses the power of belief. Doesn’t that mean everything in a universe with a book that can literally change anything that has ever existed? Thus, the Destroyer believes fully in a Dark Manhattan (a term many of you have used in the comments and that I’m now adopting) that is as devoid of joy and life as possible. Holy shit, Dark Manhattan’s Central Park is SO SCARY.

Yet one detail fucked me up more than the others:

For another thing, the trees all around were leaning in with such piteous feelings of hunger that she would as soon have eaten in front of starving children and not offered them some of what she had. Branches began to toss and twist, reaching down for a taste of the light.

Duane was smart as hell to give us an intimate and graceful scene with a tree earlier in this book. It allows the reader to recall those moments while they experience the absolute horror that is the trees in this world. They’re desperate for life and light, and THEY ARE BOUND NOT TO TALK. Thus, the horror of this is built off what Duane’s done before. BRAVO, DIANE DUANE.

The Fight

I believe that is an undeniable treat that I am reading book that is virtually impossible to describe without context. If I told an absolute stranger that I read a scene in a book where vengeful, violent cars fought to the death in an alternate New York City…. well, wait a second. I WOULD TOTALLY BE IN TO THAT. But the point I’m trying make is that the surreal adventure Kit and Nita are on is unlike most things I’ve ever read. (And to think, six years ago, I told my co-worker that I refused to read Harry Potter because I don’t do wizards. I HAD NO IDEA THE SHEER DIVERSITY OF WIZARD STORIES OUT THERE.) Diane Duane writes the massive fight between the yellow cabs and the Lotus Esprit with a visceral attention to detail. It’s nice to come off of Tamora Pierce’s writing – since I loved her action sequences so much – to be introduced to another writer who composes action scenes so fantastically. I mean it! I know from having just finished a book full of really complicated action scenes just how ridiculously difficult this is. How do you convey where everyone is? How do you build tension without over-describing things? How can you trick your reader if you’re planning on doing something shocking?

My gods, y’all. CARS FIGHTING OVER WIZARDS. I suppose that I’m so used to wizard fantasy books being set in “traditional” fantasy worlds that So You Want to Be a Wizard impresses me just by existing in our world. Yet for every moment or scene that feels familiar, Duane does like ten other things that make it all horrifying and unnerving. The fight scene reads like a pack of wild animals, but then there’s this line:

Out in the street one cab lunged at the Lotus, a leap, its front wheels clear of the ground and meant to come crashing down on the racer’s hood – until suddenly the Lotus’s nose dipped under the cab and heaved upward, sending the cab rolling helplessly onto its back.

Both familiar and COMPLETELY, IMPOSSIBLY STRANGE. The same goes for the scene where Kit stands in front of the Lotus, which just protected them from the yellow cabs, and is allowed to physically comfort it. Like a wild animal. LIKE A BIG CAT. Except it’s a Lotus Esprit. A CAR THAT HAS LIFE AND DESIRES AND EMOTIONS AND HOW IS THIS REAL.

The Subway

While I personally find the MTA to be the greatest transportation system in the world (that I’ve gotten to travel on, mind you), I can see how easily it can be twisted into a nightmare. Well, some parts of it are CURRENTLY a nightmare, but given how Dark Manhattan works, I’m worried. Aboveground, yellow cabs roam the streets, looking for fresh kills. Below… oh god, what’s below the ground? Are there sentient Metro trains, too? DO THEY WANT TO EAT KIT AND NITA AND FRED?

When I’m in New York for CrossingsCon, I will be utterly unable to look at the city the same. Probably forever.

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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