The Wizard’s Dilemma
Duane, Diane. The Wizard’s Dilemma. San Diego: Harcourt, 2001. ISBN 0-15-202551-0, hc, $17.00.
(This review originally appeared in Mythprint 38:9 (#234) in September 2001.)
Reviewed by Ruth Berman
Fans of the previous four books in Duane’s Young Wizards series will be caught up in the latest tale of Kit and Nita, though readers who are new to the series will find it useful to read the other books first. The story takes place shortly after Nita’s return from her trip to Ireland, chronicled in the fourth book, A Wizard Abroad. She has started ninth grade, and besides having trouble with schoolwork, she is having trouble getting along with her wizard partner, Kit. After they have a major disagreement on how to do a wizardly intervention, they go their separate ways to pursue their magic. Kit discovers that his dog, Ponch, is developing some unusual magical talents. Ponch takes Kit to places that have never existed before and shows Kit how to create them.
Meanwhile, Nita’s family is shocked to learn that her mother has brain cancer. As she searches for a way to use her powers to help her mother, Nita visits the “playroom,” a place where she can practice finding the “kernel” of each universe before entering the world of her mother’s cancer-ridden brain. There she meets some fascinating new alien wizards-in-training, including a group of round mercury-like creatures that work together and can combine or separate at will, and Pralaya, an otter-like creature, who is more than he appears. Now Nita’s mother is about to undergo surgery for the tumor, but the cancer may have spread, and Nita is not sure that anything she can do will get rid of it. The Lone Power, who has always been the enemy, may be her only source of hope, if she is willing to bargain with him and trade her wizardry for her mother’s life. She has to make a moral choice and live with the consequences. Duane does not take the easy way out. The ending is not totally happy, but it feels honest and right. Kit and Nita are very real teenagers dealing with challenges beyond their years, and readers will want to watch them grow as the series continues. Fans of Duane’s Cat Wizards series will be pleased to see a brief appearance by Rhiow when Nita visits Grand Central Station.