Mark Reads ‘A Wizard Abroad’: Chapter 4

In the fourth chapter of A Wizard Abroad, Nita consults the local wizards for help and discovers she knows a couple of them. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.

As a reader, I found it rewarding to get a chance to see how wizardry differs in another part of the world. A great deal of the information revealed here serves that purpose, and it’s just so EXCITING. Like, there’s a cool detail that opens this chapter: many of the wizards in Ireland just plain don’t have addresses like Nita is used to. I imagine that Duane put a lot of her own experience into A Wizard Abroad, and it was a FABULOUS DECISION. The text feels so real because of it!

That’s a huge help when otherwise, the fantastical nature of wizardry takes us into unknown worlds. I speak of the concept of “grounding” a lot whenever I review fantasy or science fiction because it’s one of my very favorite things about the genre. I love when a world can feel real and magical at the same time. (I really need to read/review more magical realism, too.) That’s what I get here. When Nita discovers the horrible magical overlays in Greystones and Bray, it’s not so weird that I don’t understand it. I get why the Irish mythology lessons had to happen: I needed to have a fuller understanding of how much history there was on this one island.

Actually, this entire chapter builds on practically everything we learned in the first three chapters. Because THEN WE FIND OUT THAT RONAN IS ONE OF THE LOCAL WIZARDS!!! In hindsight, that might seem kind of obvious (not to me, of course), but even if that’s the case, I appreciated that Duane did not make these two characters instant friends. They may have been the day previous, but there’s a competitiveness and a bitterness that crops up once they both learn they’re wizards.

Well… it’s mostly in one direction, though. Nita is eager to work with Ronan, but Ronan seems to be quite resentful that Nita is a wizard on errantry in his country. On one level, I get that. We Americans are kind of annoying, and we come to other countries, and we assume we know what we’re doing over the locals, and THIS IS VERY FAIR. But Nita couldn’t choose to be on errantry; that’s just what happened, and it’s not like Ronan could argue with the Powers That Be about who they chose? (Though I’m now getting the sense that Ronan is exactly the type of person who would do this.)

Yet there’s still antagonism and friction here, and I find that so much more entertaining than if they’d been best buds right off the bat. You can see how their differences inspire some of the conflict, like how Irish wizards must memorize their wizardries, as the druids used to. Ronan sees that as patently unfair, whereas Nita sees it as a difference in culture and region. She learns that she’s got to view this all through that lens once she meets Mrs. Smyth, too! She’s not like Tom and Carl at all, in the sense that wizardry in America tends to be… I don’t know. More intense? Faster-paced? I get this so uniquely because I’m so used to exactly the kind of America that’s contrasted here. Sure, we’ve got relaxing “parts” to our country, but there’s also a major cultural difference at work.

I’ll give an example with the UK. I truly believe that the further north you get in the country, the nicer people are, the better the food is, and the slower things seem. Even up in Edinburgh, which is a major city, I never got the same vibe (even in the business district!) as I did in London. Just in one country alone, there’s so much variety. Lancaster and York are nothing like Brighton. And yet all of them are so goddamn unlike most major cities in the United States. So it stands to reason that wizardry would reflect how the local populace behaves. After Mrs. Smyth learns of the sideways flashes, she does not react as Nita would expect of her:

“My dear,” Mrs. Smyth said, “you come from a very… energetic… school of wizardry. I appreciate that. But we do things a little more slowly here. No, we need to call the local wizards and the Area supervisors together, and discuss what needs to be done. It’ll take a few days at the least.”

So Nita has to default to their local style. That’s how it works! And I want to see that. I want to see what group wizardries are like in Ireland! I WANT TO SEE FAERY DIREWOLVES AGAIN. But y’all, nothing – and I do mean nothing – floored me quite as much as that end-of-chapter reveal, because ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

“Then you should get help for them. One of the Ard-Tuatha is in hide, not half a mile from here.”

Nita was confused: there were several different ways to translate the term. “Ard–You mean of of the Powers that Be? Here??

OKAY, SO THAT’S PRETTY COOL. According to the laws of wizards, a Power must help a wizard if they can identify them, but that’s the whole thing with the Powers hiding. They clearly make it difficult to do so.

As she got closer, Nita was rather surprised to see her aunt take the rake off her shoulder and bang the wooden end of it on the ground. However, she was even more surprised when the little hill split open, and her aunt walked into it.



Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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