A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane. ★★★★
There are two things you need to know about A Wizard Alone. The first is that it’s the sixth book in the Young Wizard series, which starts with So You Want to Be a Wizard, and that you should probably read the series in order. Secondly, there are two different versions of A Wizard Alone and the differences are significant. There is the original version and the New Millennium Edition. For this reread, I read the New Millennium Edition and I would advise you to do the same. (Note – a spoiler for the previous book, The Wizard’s Dilemma follows.)
“She felt as if there was some kind of thick skin between her and the world, muffling the way she knew she ought to feel about things… and she didn’t know what to do to get rid of it.”
Nita’s mother dies about a month before the start of this book, and she’s fallen into a depression. Meanwhile, Kit has started on a new assignment, looking for an autistic eleven year old potential wizard who’s been on Ordeal for three months now.
The differences between the two editions of the book have a lot to do with the autistic wizard, Darryl McAllister. The original had some serious problems with its portrayal of autism. When Diane Duane was reworking the series to set all of the books in the 2000s, she went back and on the advise of autistic readers changed parts of A Wizard Alone, in particular the ending. These two reviews are by autistic reviewers who compare and contrast the two versions depiction of autism. Note that both involve spoilers. If you have the option, I heavily recommend that you read the revised New Millennium Edition.
Given the weightiness of Nita’s initial sections, I really appreciated the lighter sections with Kit’s family. I love the ongoing humor with the disagreement between the TV and the remote, and I liked seeing more of his family’s dynamic. Ponch, Kit’s dog, has been playing a larger role since the last book, and I absolutely adore him. He’s got to be one of my favorite literary canines. Ponch has been going through changes with his owner being a wizard, and there’s a moving scene where he connects how he feels upset when is person is hurt to realizing that other people can be hurt as well. Yet through all of it, he remains such a recognizable dog, especially in his schemes to get more dog biscuits.
A Wizard Alone has a smaller scale than some of the other Young Wizard books. It’s not about millions of lives being at risk, but instead focuses on Nita, Kit, and Darryl. Possibly it was a bit slower because of this, but it’s still a book that I really enjoyed.
I highly recommend this series for a lot of reasons I’ve already gone over in my reviews of the previous books.