In the second half of the fifteenth and final chapter of Wizards at War, I realize just how bittersweet this ending actually is. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief and death of pets.
So, lemme just admit that this chapter works best when it’s not split up, since it’s a giant piece on endings. Loss. Hope. For every bittersweet thing here, though, the second half of this chapter provides potential and possibility.
There’s a callback later in this chapter during Kit’s POV where he recalls how recently Nita lost her mother, and it’s meant to highlight the loss he feels now that Ponch has ascended. For many of us, our pets were very much like people in our lives, and losing a pet can be downright devastating. However, upon reading that line, I realized how much more distraught Dairine must have been, given that she lost her mother and then Roshaun in a relatively short span of time. Reading back on her scene which opens this section is hard, y’all. The grief is all over these pages, a testament to how talented Duane is as a writer. You can see it in the vacancies in the descriptions: thee’s no crowd outside the palace; the plain is “vast,” made to seem all the more empty because there are no people on it; a single light burns at the end of a motionless hallway; Dairine herself didn’t even bother to change clothes or shower before traveling to Wellakh.
In short, it’s unbearable, and her conversation with Roshaun’s parents is just as heartbreaking. There is a finality to their words, an inherent acceptance that Roshaun is gone and gave his life in order to save the universe. Which was surreal because… well, we didn’t know if Roshaun was actually dead or if something else had happened that would explain his disappearance. And maybe Dairine was in denial of that, fine. I accept that. Still, that’s not exactly an easy thing to tell Roshaun’s parents! So I understood why she didn’t mention her hunch that he wasn’t dead. His parents were already grieving; why give them false hope? Why make matters worse?
Yet here’s the first example of the possibility written into this ending. First, Roshaun’s stone has responded to Dairine, which means she might actually be able to perform the same wizardly specialty as Roshaun, but for humanity’s sun. I don’t quite understand what that entails, but training with Roshaun’s father??? OKAY, I HOPE THAT IS IN THE NEXT BOOK.
But it’s Dairine’s bizarre dream journey that we find the most hope. The mobiles help create a version of Timeheart… that’s not really Timeheart? But sort of? In this, Dairine goes to the world that Roshaun “created” for himself (or was created for him, I’m not sure), only to discover a gate that leads… RIGHT BACK TO DAIRINE’S HOUSE. And Roshaun is gone, and this whole thing, as confusing as it was, HIGHLY SUGGESTS THAT ROSHAUN IS NOT DEAD AND MAY EXIST IN ANOTHER FORM OR STILL HAS WORK TO DO OH MY GOD, PLEASE. PLEASE.
I’m saving that for predictions for the next book.
The world keeps needing to be saved.
It’s a sober thought, especially after these characters lost so very much throughout Wizards at War, but it’s also a succinct summary of what it’s like to be a wizard. There’s not really a time for wizards to truly rest, since the universe is always affected by entropy and death. It’s easy to see this as a commentary on our lives, too, that the quest for a just and fair world is never going to be about winning a single battle. It’s a lifelong journey, a commitment to always working towards a better life for all people. That’s more or less a parallel to Nita’s dream, where the Lone One confronts her and tries to dissuade her from action by drilling home the idea that what she does is futile and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Maybe so, but that’s all the more reason to make the life she does have full of purpose and meaning. If this is all she’s got, why waste it?
Like I said earlier, grief and loss is everywhere in this finale, and it’s no more present than in Kit’s big scene at the end. He follows routines out of habit, despite that everything reminds him of Ponch. It’s agonizing to read both because of how sad it is and because I related so very much to Kit’s reaction. Often, your brain doesn’t realize how much meaning it has assigned to inanimate objects until a person or pet is gone, and then that meaning is obvious. Painful. Unfair.
Like the food and water bowls. The leash. The walk. The dogs in the neighborhood behaving normally. All of it has the old meaning, but with a new one tacked on: this is what Kit used to do with Ponch. IT HURT A LOT, OKAY? Now, I don’t know if Kit will ever get another dog, and I don’t blame him if he doesn’t for a while. However, that final scene was almost like Ponch giving him permission to, if only because PONCH IS NOW IN ALL DOGS PLEASE HELP ME I AM TEARS. It’s such a fitting end for the character of Ponch, who we might very well see again in the future. I’d sure like to. But if not… well, this is how a character should go out.
Goddamn, what a book.
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