Mark Reads ‘So You Want to Be a Wizard’: Chapter 7, Part I

In the seventh chapter of So You Want to Be a Wizard, WHAT IS THIS BOOK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.

This book is an accomplishment, that’s what it is.

The first half of this chapter is one relentless horror show, and just in terms of being a horror fan in general, I’m blown away. I love it when a book can borrow and mix genres and techniques, and you better believe I’m gonna talk about how horror is weaved into So You Want to Be a Wizard. I can’t speak to Duane’s intent, obviously, but I truly believe one of the coolest things about fiction is how a reader can see a whole new story in something someone else wrote.

There’s something scary about the power of the Book, but I see that more as a fantasy trope than a horror one. No, I was frightened by a lot of the imagery that Duane uses here, and the chase sequence reminds me of a fucked up version of a slasher flick. Creatures – monsters almost – lurked in the alleyways of Manhattan, looking for any opportunity to leap out at the Lotus. That’s such a powerful technique, you know? Duane harnesses the power of the unknown, and then she exploits it. What other awful things are in Dark Manhattan? How long until the Starsnuffer finds them? What obstacles await the trio at Grand Central?

Some of my favorite horror movies use sound to build tension and terror, and y’all already know what I’m going to quote. IT’S THE WORST THING EVER.

And then the sound came – a single clang, like an anvil being struck, not too far away. Then another clang, hollow and metallic, echoing from the blank-eyed buildings, dying into bell-like echoes. Several more clangs, close together. Then a series of them, a slow drumroll of metal beating on stone.

WHY. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME? But I know why. Duane uses these techniques to build character. When the horrifying, eight-legged iron horse finally appears down the street, it as much a statement of the kind of villain that the Starsnuffer is as it’s an attempt to scare us. He clearly loves the display of power, and he envisions himself as the kind of god-like entity that appears like this. It’s all part of his image. Later in the chapter, the characters realize that he never truly chases them. Kit remarks that it’s “beneath” him to run after his prey. He walks slowly and methodically, which is a HORRIFYING way to communicate his certainty. He knows he’ll reach these kids and destroy. He doesn’t doubt it for a second.

And I also imagine that he loves destruction. It’s in his name! So he was probably full of glee and joy when he crushed Lotus. Y’all, this book made me sad about a car. A CAR. I DON’T EVEN HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENSE AND LOOK WHAT THIS BOOK IS DOING TO ME. I am guessing that this is not the only surprising thing I’ll develop emotions for in this series. Like, I actually felt sad about Kit losing his antenna wand. THE ANTENNA OF A CAR. That is a thing that affected me in the real world. But that’s okay, because at least Kit sacrificed the wand in order to gain passage across the ABYSS that the Starsnuffer created in Grand Central.

I want you to know that I expected a bloodthirsty train to appear at some point in this book, and yet I still wasn’t ready for that scene. I wasn’t. I wasn’t ready for Nita to cross through the worldgate right at the last second, and now I am going to be terrified of the subway in New York because what if these trains will eat me. All of these things feel rooted in horror as much as they are in fantasy or even urban fantasy. I’m not saying that Duane (or any writer, for that matter) is only allowed to use certain things as long as they remain in one genre. Hell no, mix it all up. BREAK ALL THE RULES. I just love that I’m able to look at it through this lens.

Duane’s glimpse of Dark Manhattan may be over for the moment, but that’s sort of the point, at least as I see it. The trio successfully escapes and makes it back through the worldgate, but a new threat appears. After spending so much time in Dark Manhattan, the reader is able to understand why the place is just wrong. Thus, when the Starsnuffer appears on the top of the MetLife building, having crossed over into our Manhattan, the dread is instantaneous. With a mere touch, his darkness spreads. Even if he does not run to chase down the Book, his influence in this world will be total and inevitable if he is not stopped.

It really hit me in the first half of this chapter how young these characters are. Duane does a fine job never letting us forget that. Even if they are brave and clever and resilient, they’re still afraid. I appreciate that they can be these things all at the same time, too, you know? It’s totally justifiable for them to be terrified of what the Starsnuffer will do to their world.

“We can’t just let him change things until he catches us. Buildings are one thing, but what happens to people after that black hits them?”

WHICH IS A VALID QUESTION, GIVEN THAT WE SO NO PEOPLE IN DARK MANHATTAN. Do they die? Are they wiped out of existence? They’re all believable possibilities at this point!!! But I loved that both Kit and Nita got to come up with impromptu plans in this half of the chapter. Kit sacrificed his wand to bridge a gap, and Nita realizes that she and Kit can activate the trees and the statues in Central Park to fight against the Starsnuffer. I am so thrilled to be able to read this, but I’m wondering how this is going to unfold. Can non-wizards see it happening? How can you conceal a fight so large and so scary from the general public?


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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