In the first half of the fifth chapter of Deep Wizardry, I don’t even know how anyone could pull this off, but by gods, it works. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I know how someone can pull this off: BEING A GOOD WRITER. Let me elaborate on A BILLION THINGS below.
I really couldn’t imagine how this would unfold. Tom, Carl, and S’Reee all insisted that shapechanging was a thing, but… how? How would it look? How would it feel? Would it be like Borrowing in the Discworld books or like Daine’s power in the Immortals quartet? Yet even I knew that these comparisons weren’t decent metaphors, nor did they encapsulate what Duane was trying to accomplish. Nita and Kit had to become whales. While that might have been easier for Nita – since she “shared blood” with S’Reee – I still couldn’t picture this. Exactly how does shapechanging work?
I think it would have been very easy for Duane to rely on the trope of using belief as a power in and of itself. There’s a tiny element of it here, but she instead creates a new magical form based almost entirely on something else: knowledge instead of faith.
“Belief’s no good either; belief as such always has doubt at the bottom. It’s knowing that makes wizardry work. Only knowing can banish doubt, and while doubt remains, no spell, however powerful, will function properly. ‘Wizardry does not live in the unwilling heart,’ the Sea says. There’d be lots more wizards if more people were able to give up doubt – and belief. But like any other habit, they’re hard to break…”
I don’t feel the need to draw comparisons between this and my atheism because I feel like that’s a bit too obvious. Rather, I found this powerful because it’s about how the pursuit of knowledge can work to empower a person. This is not a validation of intelligence, which is a ridiculously ableist concept. It’s not about being smart. It’s about how our understanding of the world can empower us! Knowing how wizardry worked helped Kit to believe it, not the other way around. Thus, Nita just needs to know what a whale is in order to become one. It sounds simple, but I never felt like Duane failed to convey what a complex, layered process this was.
But it’s all so believable because Duane puts us in Nita’s mind, and the transformation feels like we’re experiencing the change ourselves. We suddenly know what it’s like to have “sideways vision,” or to hear using our skin and sound waves traveling through water. Duane describes this by grounding Nita’s senses in her own understanding of a body, too!
Her nose seemed to be on the top of her head, and her mouth somewhere south of her chin;
These descriptions help make the experience feel so real, you know?
At the same time, Kit’s transformation is a lot scarier because he couldn’t transform by knowledge alone. (Though knowledge will make future transformations easier.) The whalesark that S’Reee gives to Kit is a magical tool, an accompaniment of sorts that allows him to transform into a specific whale (Aivaaan) that had donated their “shadow of a… nervous system.” It’s a very strange concept, and I was glad that Kit vocalized his discomfort with the process, especially since he didn’t know whether or not he’d become Aivaaan, too. Despite all of S’Reee’s assurances, Kit’s transformation ended up being pretty scary there for a moment. I WAS WORRIED. Granted, we learn why it was so difficult at first. (Kit fought the change the whole time and it was highly possible that the sark could have rejected him.) STILL. SCARY.
I’m wondering now, though, if Duane is heading towards romance with Kit and Nita. I wouldn’t be opposed to it at all! I love the trope of people being friends for a long time and then REALIZING THAT THEY WERE ALWAYS PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER. However, I think that in this book, Duane is busy exploring what it’s like for Nita to have her first close friend ever. She states that here, but I realize how much that’s appeared prior to this. It’s a challenge to be around a person day after day, especially if you never have before. There’s so much you have to navigate: their sense of humor. Their habits. How they deal with stress. How they deal with anger. I say this as someone who’s learning how to live with someone all over again. It’s a really difficult thing to do, but conversation – truly honest conversation – helps to mitigate the problems that arise from it.
So how will Nita talk to her friend?
I’ve been quietly worried about my actual fear of the deep ocean cropping up while reading this. Seriously, I’ve never been over deep water if you don’t count airplanes. I JUST CAN’T. It’s too frightening! Yet I found this all so charming and fantastical instead!!! I wanted to be a whale, to experience what it might be like to glide through the ocean like these three characters do. I want to see the coral reefs far from the shore, to watch fish dart in and out tiny spaces, their colors flashing as the sunlight catches them. This chapter made me realize how little I’ve seen of the ocean and how much I really want to.
LET’S ALL TAKE A TRIP OR SOMETHING.
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 am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
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– 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.
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