In the second half of the first chapter of A Wizard Abroad, Nita travels alone to a strange place. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
OH MY GOD I’M ALREADY SO INTO IT. It’s easy to find a connection to a work of fiction when you’re able to recognize yourself in it, though, so I know that is playing a part in this. But there really is a lot here to like aside from that kind of personal bias; this is the start of an adventure. More so than the past three books, this feels explicit. Nita is taken far, far out of her comfort zone and thrust right into a new batch of weirdness, AND I CANNOT WAIT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT IT.
Duane finds a great balance between legitimate teen angst and legitimate wizard angst, and I do believe there’s a difference between the two. Nita is upset that she’s being pulled away from her life with Kit, and in that, there’s a relatable bit of teen angst that Duane taps into. I even recall reading more than a few books growing up that used this same premise where the parents sent their kid on a summer vacation with a distant relative they didn’t know that while.
So while this starts in a familiar place on that level, it’s also utterly unfamiliar to me. Nita has things at her disposal that change the circumstances. She can thought-speak with Kit, first of all. But that doesn’t alleviate her concern over abandoning her wizardly plans in order to satisfy her parents. That is not the usual teen angst, you know? Her responsibilities as a wizard are real and valid! She has a right to feel like she’s been derailed. Yet she resigns herself over the course of the rest of this chapter to accepting that she is leaving and she must deal with it. Her goodbye is sad, but watching her transformation is also a lot of fun.
I say that because traveling internationally can be really, really scary. It’s weird to admit that, but I was terrified of my first trip outside of North America back in 2014. I was lucky in that I flew into London first. As different as that place is, it’s easier for an American like myself because English is spoken everywhere, and there’s more cross-cultural similarities than one would expect. (Weird fact: every McDonald’s in the UK and Europe tastes better than every McDonald’s in the United States. Universally so. WHAT THE HELL.) But that first transatlantic flight was SO MUCH TO EXPERIENCE. Now, I’d flown many times before, so it wasn’t like Nita’s experience, where she’d not flown before. (I think? I can’t recall her mentioning it.) It still didn’t prepare me for the sheer length of it. Or the discomfort. Or the fact that the food was ACTUALLY EDIBLE. Or the challenge of sleeping in a seat that sort-of reclines enough that it’s not like normal domestic flights, but not far enough that it felt like I could sleep in it. OR THE FOOD. Or the boredom. Look, I could only listen to music or watch movies for so long, you know?
So I couldn’t help but be overjoyed reading this. Duane packs so much of this personal experience into the chapter in a way that feels intimately relatable. Waking up in the morning while flying over England is still one of the best memories I have. The same goes for my trip to Oslo last year, since that view was spectacular as well. Getting a small breakfast of a pastry, tea, and fruit is seared into my mind, not because it’s a spectacular thing (it happens thousands of times a day), but because it was so new to me.
Yet there’s nothing I related to more than landing in Dublin, getting through customs, and then hopping into a car to see the city. My friend Gareth picked me up from the airport last year, and he was an incredible tour guide. Dublin was the last full day on my Europe/UK tour, and I had a flight to Amsterdam the following day, so I sadly did not get to spend as much time as I wanted in the city. BUT DUANE STILL DESCRIBES THINGS I REMEMBER VERY CLEARLY.
Nita spent most of this period starting to get used to the weirdness of sitting on the driver’s side and adjusting to the fact that her aunt was driving on the left side of the road. It was one thing to know about it in the abstract, actually doing it was peculiar.
I understand this truly and deeply. The first time I’d been through this was less than a week prior to arriving in Dublin. My friend the_ladylark drove me north from Manchester and I WAS QUIETLY FREAKING OUT THE ENTIRE TIME. (I’m cool, I swear.)
The signs on the motorway, half in Irish and half in English, were a constant fascination. It was a very peculiar-looking language, with a lot of peculiar combinations of letters and small letters in front of capital letters at the beginnings of words, something she’d never seen before.
This is me. ABSOLUTELY ME. And believe me, I tried to pronounce every sign I saw, but I was so bad at it. Actually, the video for this chapter is evidence that I still am. I don’t understand the rules of pronunciation, so everything sounds… very messy? I’M A MESS.
Anyway, enough about me. I was thrilled to read about the countryside outside of Dublin, since I didn’t get to see it, and so far, Aunt Annie seems like a delight. I want to learn more about her farm. I want to meet the people who work there. And Nita better ride a horse. SHE BETTER.
But will it be a ghost horse???
“Oh,” she said. “You mean the ghosts.”
“Welcome to Ireland,” said her aunt.
!!!!!!!!!! WHO ENDS THE FIRST CHAPTER LIKE THIS. WHAT THE HELL, ARE GHOSTS REAL IN THIS UNIVERSE. Are they something explained by wizardry? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS BOOK.
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