In the eleventh chapter of Deep Wizardry, HOW DOES THIS KEEP GETTING MORE INTENSE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
I have to start with this because the sentence knocked me flat:
And they kept touching her like a delicate thing that might break – though there was an undercurrent of anger in the touches that said her parents had suddenly discovered she was in some ways stronger than they were, and they didn’t like it.
The idea of that kind of resentment might seem incomprehensible to others, but I understood it immediately. Intimately. It was one of those things that that I’d never seen written down anywhere, but intrinsically knew was something I’d gone through. Now, the context for me was different; my mother resented my independence. After I ran away from home, she didn’t speak to me for almost two years out of spite, and she later admitted to me that she hated that I succeeded on my own. I knew the truth: she didn’t like it that I was strong and smart, because it meant that I had done things without relying on her.
And isn’t that part of the reason Nita’s parents feel as they do? Their daughter has done so much without a shred of their guidance or wisdom. She’s grown up before their eyes in the span of ten hours. PROBABLY LESS. That’s a scary, surreal thing to go through. So how do you deal with that? Well, awkwardly. VERY AWKWARDLY. Nita’s parents can’t figure out whether to scold her. Guide her. Hug her. Be angry. They alternate between multiple actions because… well, what else can they do?
So, with a pervasive sadness dripping off every word, Diane Duane gives us YET ANOTHER HEART-WRENCHING SCENE. It’s very common for characters in YA books to suffer alone, to deal with the horrible fate they’ve been dealt without talking to a single adult. I detailed why it was so great that Nita told the truth in the last chapter. You can see the same dynamic in Nita’s conversation with Carl. Right before she participates in the Song, she reaches out to an adult who can help her, and she’s honest the entire time. (Seriously, Duane’s decision to write Nita as a truthful character is so brilliant.)
It would have been so much easier, though, to write Nita’s scene with Carl as something comforting or presenting Nita with a way out of her decision. Instead, Duane crafts a deeply unnerving scene built on telling the truth. Once Nita tells Carl everything that’s happening, he doesn’t treat Nita with contempt or disrespect. In his eyes, she is a wizard, an adult, someone who deserves to hear the truth about what she’s done and what she’s facing.
And ultimately, there are three outcomes to the Song. Nita can bow out and ignore her duty, and then EVERYTHING IS AWFUL FOREVER. Jesus, y’all, how many of you read this part and felt your insides crumple up? Yes, it’s possible that millions of people would die because of the quakes; we knew that. What I didn’t know is that if Nita forsook her Oath, she would be quietly tormented by it UNTIL SHE DIED. As Carl puts it:
“In your last moment as a wizard, as you lose your power, you will know beyond all doubt that the Universe around you is going to die sooner because of your actions. And all through your life there’ll always be something at the bottom of your heart that feels sad… and you’ll never be able to get rid of it, or even understand it.”
WELL. WELL. THAT IS NOT EVEN AN OPTION FOR ME. And I could tell that Nita didn’t want anything like this either. So, she’d have to go through with the song. She’d have to die, it would be horrible, but she would help defeat the Lone Power and deal him a setback that would prevent him from “interfering” with the Sea and the land for a long, long time.
Yet I was surprised by the third option: complete the Song willingly.
“If you can make the Sacrifice willingly, the wizardry will gain such power as you can barely imagine. The Lone One’s power is always based on Its desire to have Its own way in everything. Nothing undermines Its workings faster than power turned toward having something the way someone else wants it.”
That’s a terrifying choice to make, but sitting here, thinking about it now, I feel like Nita could do it. If anyone could here, she could. But how can you ask that of someone so young? I don’t know. It’s why this feels so deeply uncomfortable, you know? Nita has to consider the death of the universe and all the things that contribute to it. Her actions might slow that down a little or a lot, but she has to sacrifice herself to do that.
It’s hard to think about, but Duane doesn’t turn away from it. The text is sharp, focused, and brutal at times, but that honesty makes it a more rewarding experience. We now know all the stakes going into this; we know that Nita is afraid and concerned and willing all at the same time. That’s okay. You can still be brave and frightened, and this story is showing us that this combination is perfectly all right.
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:
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