A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane. ★★★
A Wizard Abroad is the fourth book in the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, which starts with So You Want to Be a Wizard. It’s also my least favorite book in the reread so far.
In A Wizard Abroad, Nita’s parents decided to send her to Ireland to go stay with her aunt so that she can “take a break” from wizardry and working with her friend Kit. However, once Nita gets to Ireland she finds that the entire country is layered with old magic and that the distance between worlds and times is incredibly close. If the situation isn’t dealt with, bad things could happen.
“If we can’t stop this, then the barriers between present and past will break down everywhere, and the physical world will be progressively overrun by the nonphysical: All the myths and truths that become myth, all the dreams and nightmares, all the more central and more peripheral realities will superimpose themselves on this one… inextricably.”
I didn’t feel a sense of urgency or threat regarding the plot. There’s a couple of instances of dangerous things happening because of the closeness of the realities – Nita gets attacked by ancient wolves and a village square gets wrecked by drows – but overall it still feels very vague.
A Wizard Abroad was also very heavy on Irish mythology, which I don’t know a lot about. Possibly this is a large part of why I didn’t care for it as much as the other books in the series. The Irish mythology might also have played into the extremely slow pace. There was a lot of time spent on descriptions and not much on things happening. Some more things did start to go on at the very end, but it wasn’t enough. Unfortunately this has also been the longest book in the series thus far.
A Wizard Abroad also has an abortive attempt at teen romance, which I didn’t care for. It did drizzle out by the end, thankfully. I could say more on this point, but the bad boy “love interest” character doesn’t reappear for another few books.
I think what makes me dislike A Wizard Abroad is that it doesn’t really have the elements that make me love the Young Wizards series. It could be almost any YA urban fantasy set in Ireland. It doesn’t have the intermingling of science fiction and fantasy. It doesn’t have as much of the ethical choices that underline the other books. It does build on the mythology and world of wizardry, but the mythology approach was stale, especially compared to the dark New York of the first book or the ocean wizardry of the second. Additionally, it doesn’t have as much page time spent with familiar characters. For the first hundred pages or so, it’s all Nita, without Kit or anyone else.
Basically, compared to the previous three books, A Wizard Abroad is longer and not as good. If I’d read this one first, I don’t think I would have picked up the rest of the series. Luckily, that was not the case.