In the second half of the nineteenth chapter of The Wizard’s Dilemma, Nita is surprised by who ultimately solves the dilemma. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death and cancer.
The easiest thing for me to say at the start of this is: wow. Wow. This is not what I expected, and yet it was so much more rewarding because of the surprise. In the end, the dilemma rests purely on the shoulders of Nita’s mother, and it’s a brilliant twist that respects the agency of the character whose life – and death – has caused so much conflict. And Duane achieves this with humor, grace, and some of her best prose, too! SERIOUSLY, THIS WAS A DELIGHT TO READ.
But let’s first start with Nita’s choice, since I don’t want to ignore how all three of the main players do wonderful things in order to “defeat” the Lone Power. (I hesitate to even use that word, but more on that in a sec.) When faced with the chance to save her mother by doing business with the Lone One, she chooses Kit. She chooses friendship and companionship. She chooses to trust Kit, which in this context is a daring, vital act. I correctly predicted that the Lone One had pushed Nita to the Jones Inlet problem specifically so It could trip her up in this moment, though the full horror of that manipulation wasn’t something I picked up on. I figured the Lone One did what It could to sow discord between Kit and Nita, but I absolutely did not realize how this whole journey would completely change who Nita was.
And if a wizard changes in any significant way, their name – their essence – changes along with them, which INVALIDATED ALL THE SPELLS THAT NITA BROUGHT WITH HER INTO HER MOTHER’S UNIVERSE. The manipulation was so insidious and effective that I felt horrified by how deeply Nita had been fooled. Yet it is in this mistake that Nita finds solace and hope, and I’ll be damned if it’s not one of many awesome things in this chapter. A mistake is a chance to improve, and in order to do so, one must accept the past rather than deny it. By doing so, Nita is able to fold her old name in with the new one to thwart the Lone Power. IT’S SUCH AN AWESOME SEQUENCE, especially since it comes after that sobering moment where Nita realizes just how screwed she is.
I also think it’s indicative of the balance achieved by this book. That’s a good word to describe this: balance. This text may be sad and bittersweet, but it’s not devoid of joy. Nita may have screwed up royally, but that doesn’t mean she can’t become a better person because of it. And Nita’s mother might have a body full of a dark, cancerous force, but she is still capable of becoming a powerful, radiant goddess. Look, y’all, Nita’s mother’s transformation (and gradual acceptance) in the second half of chapter nineteen is definitely my favorite part of this whole book. Like I said before, I appreciate that Duane makes her a major player here. It’s her body, and ultimately, it should be her decision in terms of what should be done with it. Yet as Nita’s mother excoriates and “punishes” the Lone One for what it did to her – to all life, really! – Duane also doesn’t settle on pure revenge. I’m sure many of us – myself included – would have been delighted if the Lone One was defeated, if It slunk off and away and Nita’s mother was cured and everything was great and wonderful.
But that would also have betrayed the entire series. All wizardry has a cost, and all actions have consequences. Balance is built into the fabric of the Young Wizards universe. That sense of balance is what Nita’s mother comes to accept. She gives the Lone One a taste of Its own medicine, but then she stops. She relents. She gives up. It seemed such a shocking and distressing moment, but in hindsight? This woman exercised wisdom. She knew that eventually, the Lone One would win. She was always going to die. So why delay that inevitability? Why risk knowing that the cancer in your body wasn’t totally eradicated and that at any moment, it could sweep back into you and kill you? What kind of life could you live with that fear, that terror, hanging over you?
So Nita’s mother accepts balance: Nita may have bought her time to say goodbye, but it’s time for her to leave. To perish. To find out what’s after death. And you know, I know that Nita’s mother isn’t a wizard in a technical sense, but her grasp on the glede, her understanding of balance, her acceptance in the grand scheme of things… it makes her a wizard in my eyes. It means that the title of this book refers to her, too, just as much as it refers to Nita.
And that’s the “victory” achieved here. Much of the cancer was excised from Nita’s mother’s body, but she accepted her death from it. Nita succeeded, too, and she learned a valuable lesson about friendship. Kit is now aware of how much he’ll need to help Nita, in the days to come and long into the future. It’s astounding to me how well each of these stories have been wrapped up and wrapped into one another.
Then there’s the sadness. It’s inescapable. And as satisfying as much of this is, it hurts. It hurts to know that Nita’s mother resigned herself to death. It hurt to read that whole scene with Kit, Nita, and Dairine, where Dairine thanks them for what they did because they tried as hard as they could. It hurts to know that Nita now has an incredible connection to her mother, but she finds out during the most DEVASTATING conversation her mother and father have ever had.
It hurts. (PS: It’s all your fault.)
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. I POST A LOT OF CUTE PHOTOS, OKAY. Think of it like a private Tumblr blog that only SPECIAL PEOPLE get to read.
– I have updated my list of conventions and events for the remainder of the year and much of next year. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– 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 have been announced here.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!