In the second half of the third chapter of A Wizard Abroad, Nita does more exploring, and then EVERYTHING IS RUINED. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
It was only eight miles, and through extremely pretty countryside.
My love of walking came from a very specific place: I wasn’t allowed out of the house as a kid, and once I finally got free, I didn’t have a car. So I walked everywhere. I remember that first brutal walk from the friends’ house I was staying at to the Galleria at Tyler, a mall a few miles to the south. Back in those days, it became a miniature tragedy if your Walkman ran out of batteries. I desperately needed socks and underwear after running away from home, as I’d left those behind in order to maximize the space in my duffel bag. The batteries ran out ten minutes into that walk, so I had to bear the heat and the traffic without music to accompany me. But that walk was the first of many I took, almost always by myself, almost always distances that seemed absurd and impossible.
I’ve never lost my taste for it. As long as I’ve got the time, I often choose to walk when a train or a car would get me there faster. There’s something magical about discovering a neighborhood on foot, to traversing a route entirely with the power of my own body. I have an endurance built up from years of long distance running, and I’ve got the privilege of being able-bodied enough to withstand walking, so I think it’s important to acknowledge that. When Nita resolved herself to the eight mile walk home, I felt a kinship with her. That is absolutely something I would do. Would? Who am I kidding! I have done something like this in practically every place I’ve traveled to. Just recently, I got an ugly tank top tan while walking around Amarillo. (True story: so I could conquer every Pokémon Go gym I could find. Not sorry at all.) I walked an ungodly amount in Europe and the UK, and it was one of my favorite parts of exploring all the cities I went to. I CANNOT WAIT TO DO IT AGAIN THIS SUMMER.
The importance of all this, though, is that Duane grounds A Wizard Abroad in an Ireland that feels extremely real. Part of that is her descriptions of the geography, but it’s also due to the economic pall that settled over Ireland, some of which I discussed with Duane herself when I met her last summer. It’s always fascinating to me when writers choose to do this with fantasy or science fiction because it can inform the story in different ways. Here, we are put in a world that feels realistic and familiar (to different people, of course) so that when Nita’s world is twisted away from her, it’s a billion times more jarring.
Initially, she twists the world on her own without any wizardry done on her part. That’s a cool thing to read until Nita realizes why that’s not exactly a good phenomenon. It should not be that easy for a wizard to slip into a sideways world, and yet there’s something in Ireland that’s making this possible. That’s the main conflict at this point, and it frustrates Nita because the Powers aren’t exactly forthcoming about their idea of how Nita is supposed to stop this from happening. Not only that, but there’s a reason that Nita had to be separated from Kit. I mean, I don’t like it, but I have faith in Nita, you know???
I was pleased that No Foxes Were Harmed During The Fox Hunt. That’s how I like my fiction: conscious of how much I care about pretty much all animals. I also wish to be best friends with all these animals. Well, maybe not all of them. For Diane Duane reaches far into the past – impossibly far – to close this chapter with a glimpse of terror. Kit had suggested that this sideways flashing was worse than Nita thought it was, but HOLY SHIT, I was not ready for a demonstration of that. Somehow, the sideways jump that Nita experiences is thousands upon thousands of years old. At least, that’s the theory I’ve got. Never before had she glimpsed a world so old, and yet, what am I supposed to think??? An old Irish elk that had been “extinct since the ice came down” appears before Nita, runs past her, and is followed by a pack of dire wolves. DIRE WOLVES.
Now, this might have been creepy or disconcerting all by itself, but one of the wolves breaks through Nita’s shield spell. I honestly do not understand how this is possible. I don’t. If her self-defense magic (which lends itself to one of the most violent scenes I’ve ever read) can work, why not her shield??? Were the dire wolves more powerful than her? How can they interact with her in such a physical way? The same goes for her healing of the Irish elk. It shouldn’t be happening unless… well, unless Nita is physically traveling to these locations. That’s what I’m guessing is happening here. Shit, I don’t know. But that scene was scary, and odds are that it’s only going to get worse and worse.
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