A Wizard Abroad (Young Wizards #4) by Diane Duane
I have read "A Wizard Abroad" several times now and, while I appreciate it as a love letter to Duane's home (she and her husband moved to Ireland in 1988), I don't look forward to this reread as much as I have the other books in the series.
Maybe it's the fairies . . . .
As "A Wizard Abroad" opens, the Callahans have decided that Nita has been too wrapped up in her wizardry and are worried that she is possibly getting (ahem) too intimate with Kit, so they save up the money for a plane ticket and send her to stay with her aunt Annie in Ireland for the rest of the summer. Needless to say, she and Kit are upset about this, particularly since they are in the middle of negotiating the settlement of a territorial dispute between two trees. The Callahans forbid Nita to use the "beam me up Scotty" spell to visit Kit, as well.
Not too long after Nita arrives, she discovers that she was apparently, unbeknownst to her parents, sent to Ireland as part of a wizardry intervention. Ireland has been bothered by one of the shadows of the Lone One for millennia, and this shadow is rising again.
As I am sure I have mentioned in other reviews, I have discovered that a large part of my enjoyment of this series is the characters. And as this was a reread, I sat down to this one knowing who the new wizards to be introduced will turn out to be much less enthusiastically than usual. Then Tualha turned up and changed everything. I hate to admit that I'd forgotten about her, because Tualha is awesome. She is a kitten who was found in a bag on the farm, which, for some reason, makes her a bard. She teaches Nita about the all of the invasions of Ireland (from the land's perspective, Tualha assures us), some of which Nita finds kind of dubious. Tualha also introduces Nita to the concepts of the Fomori and Balor, who become important to the plot.
Speaking of the plot, much of the action in the story is building a mood and setting up the problem. Ireland, in the "Young Wizards"verse, was an island that the Powers had trouble with. Possibly as a result of this, possibly unrelated to it, the residue from wizardry never goes away in Ireland. This means that wizardry can have unexpected effects and also that non-wizards sometimes feel the effects of the residue. This is part of why Ireland has a reputation as a mystical place among nonwizards.
Soon after her arrival in Ireland, Nita is pulled "sideways" into another time. She hears the voices of rebels outside the "caravan" (for Americans, "trailer") where she is staying. Later she gets pulled entirely into the past. By the time she is attacked by prehistoric creatures, other wizards have noticed and are beginning the process of planning an intervention of some sort. Because of the old residue, known as "overlays," wizards have to do a lot of planning before attempting anything. Eventually they make a plan and end up calling Kit and Dairine in to help out.
"A Wizard Abroad" suffers from some kind of temporal anomaly. Nita has been a wizard for two years despite her trip to the Hamptons and Dairine subsequently becoming a wizard having happened only that summer. Okay, it's not really a temporal anomaly but is part of the confused timeline that Duane fixed in her New Millennium editions. Though I wonder what would have happened if Duane had instead handwaved some kind of wizardry related explanation for the discrepancies.
The book ends with a protracted battle thing in which they are set upon by Fomori. The battles go "drow (something something) chalice (something something) death (something something) . . . ." Then they finally reach Balor and things pick up. I love the whole scene with Balor. Then the fairies come back and we find out why this will be the only book with fairies in it.
"A Wizard Abroad" has a lot to recommend it (Tualha, the beauty of Ireland and watching Dairine do her thing chief among them), but I have to admit that there are several books in the series that I enjoyed more.