Mark Reads ‘A Wizard Alone’: Chapter 9, Part I

In the first half of the ninth chapter of A Wizard Aloneanger is a gift. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards

This is so good, and it might honestly become my favorite Young Wizards book.


The more I think about the world that Darryl designed to be his final stand against the Lone One, the more brilliant it becomes. Mirrors are a dastardly thing here, and I don’t mean that solely in a logistical sense. Though there’s that, too: the mirrors make it actually hard to make it through this endless, closed maze. But as Kit and Ponch began to explore the place, I could see why this would be so effective.

The horror in this constructed world is in the reflections.

The twisted images. The fractured ones. The alien ones. And most important, the Lone One will have to face who himself, over and over again. It’ll have to see Itself as It is, as It chose to represent Itself, as It has chosen to live. It will be constantly reminded of who It is. AND THAT IS HAUNTING.

“I’m telling you, though, I did a really good job this time. The outside’s sealed: no one else can get it – none of Its little minions can smuggle It energy. And no one can get out from inside, either; the barrier’s sealed. It should stay stuck in here with us for…” He sounded grimly satisfied. “A real long time. Could be forever.”

Darryl created a (possibly) eternal trap for the Lone One. Which Ponch and Kit are now (possibly stuck inside as well.)

Are you ready? You’re not.

Well, if he has to stay forever, Ponch said, then I’m not leaving.

And he lay down beside Kit, huddling close to him, and started to wait for forever.

Anyone else imagine Seymour from Futurama here, but with Ponch in his place? No? Just me?

Life as Usual

I admire that Duane commits to the fact that Nita, Dairine, and their father have to continue with their responsibilities, despite that KIT IS GOING TO BE TRAPPED IN A FUCKING NIGHTMARE IF THEY DON’T ACT. I struggled with this choice myself, and it was often very frustrating. I didn’t want to write scenes about this sort of thing because… well, all the action and intrigue was over there! How could I make going to class interesting and exciting?

This is how. It’s about building an atmosphere. Its about finding inspiration and purpose in the mundane. Granted, Duane also made Mr. Millman an interesting character. So while I was eager for Nita’s second trip into Darryl’s mind, I was intrigued to see how Nita would deal with that little “magic” slip-up during their last meeting. Thus, there’s tension here; I desperately wanted to get past Nita’s day at school, but then Mr. Millman started talking, and I was transfixed. First of all, I WAS JUST WRITING ABOUT TENSION AS A NARRATIVE DEVICE AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED HERE. (Also, I ate a Trader Joe’s pop-tart for breakfast so: totally on brand with review today.)

Then, Mr. Millman casually eviscerates Nita, and I’m exaggerating, of course, but it was like the manifestation of that “I just came to have a good time and I’m feeling so attacked” meme. Nita just had to get through that card trick, and she would have been fine, but her anger over the pointlessness of the act spilled over. And why shouldn’t it? Nita literally had better things to do at that moment, and the whole thing was absurd. And yet?

“Let me suggest that when anger runs so close to the surface that it’s easily provoked by unusual circumstances, you’re quite possibly not done with it yet.”

Damn straight I’m not, Nita thought.

“It’s not a good thing, not a bad thing, just what’s so,” Millman said. “But you might want to think about what result this kind of emotion has produced in the past. Or might produce again in the future.”

Like Nita, I initially didn’t see the brilliance in what he said. (In hindsight, I now have this theory that he’s actually a wizard, but is deliberately hiding it in order to provide Nita with the guidance that she needs.) It was a great way for him to point out that she still hadn’t dealt with the anger she felt, but I was still just hoping Nita would hurry up and get to seeking out Kit.

And then, in a random moment in class, DIANE DUANE KNOCKS IT OUT OF THE PARK:

Nita wasn’t used to thinking of anger as a tool. It had always seemed like something you didn’t want to get accustomed to using, in case it started to become a habit, or started twisting you and your wizardry in directions you didn’t want to go. But if you’re careful, she thought, if you stay in control, if you manage it carefully enough – maybe it’s okay to use it just every now and then. Maybe managing it, rather than letting it manage you, is the whole idea –

Women are told to be less angry. Non-white people are told to be less angry. Queer folks are told to be less angry. Many societies devalue anger for insidious reasons, and that’s precisely why I love this as much as I do. Within reason, with understanding and awareness, anger is an incredible tool to have. It’s a motivational factor. It provides purpose and focus, and I am going to be endlessly pleased about this.


Because in just a matter of a single page, the pacing for this chapter ramps up into a beautiful, beautiful thing. Nita sacrifices much here: she knows her school and her father will be disappointed and upset at her for skipping class. She knows that what she’s doing is risky, but it’s all for Kit. There is an impressive amount of growth within this chapter for Nita, namely in how she realizes that her grief has kept her back from helping her best friend right when he needed her most:

Kit had come right out and said that he wished he had backup on this job. She’d ignored him, and he’d gone ahead with what he was doing and got himself in too deep.

Now, I didn’t feel like Duane blamed Nita for feeling said, nor was she trying to say that Nita should not have grieved. This came off as more nuanced; it’s about how Nita went too deep herself, how she wallowed for the sake of it at times, and how she couldn’t see how badly Kit needed her help. I love how deeply A Wizard Alone is dependent on The Wizard’s Dilemma in this realization. As Nita puts it:

Well, she’d been in too deep herself, not long ago, unable to see the trouble she was getting into… and Kit had pulled her out. Now she was going to be able to return the favor.


The Kernel

Well, in more ways than one. First, let’s acknowledge the fierce hilarity of Nita using her anger to literally put herself to sleep. I want to be this spiteful some day, GIVE ME THIS POWER. But Duane commits to Nita’s epiphany, and anger is the means by which Nita is able to think of and execute a plan to not only find Darryl’s world, but to get inside of it. She seeks out the world’s kernel!!! I loved how this also allowed the reader to get a better sense of Darryl’s mind, of his power, of how unique he was as a wizard. That Mobius strip is probably how he’s able to appear in two places at once; his power conduits are the biggest Nita’s ever seen; and how’s this for another surprise?

She reached into the tangle of coiled light and hooked a finger under one tightly braided chain of characters that glowed calmly right at the kernel’s heart: then pinched it between thumb and forefinger and teased it a little ways out of the kernel’s main structure. It was the core representation of the Wizard’s Oath, the heart of an Ordeal; and it was complete.

WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN??? Why didn’t anyone’s manual say that Darryl had completed his Ordeal??? THIS IS SUCH GREAT NEWS. Which is then coupled with the heartbreak of Darryl’s parents, who are lost and unsure of what to do with their son. We finally get confirmation that this is the voices that Kit and Nita have heard while inside Darryl’s mind. It’s an interesting choice because we haven’t seen Darryl in the world in a long time. Is he completely non-responsive? We can only guess from context clues, and even then, I’m not sure guessing is a good idea, since it’s too easy to assume stereotypes here.

But all four of the beings Nita expected to find are in this maze. Given that Nita has the kernel, I’ll theorize that she’ll use it to get Kit and Ponch out. As for Darryl? Well, for those of you who are reading along with me, your guess is as good as mine. I have no idea how Duane is going to tie all of this together.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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