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A Wizard of Mars (Young Wizards #9) by Diane Duane
The first time I read "A Wizard of Mars," I wasn't sure where this book would go. With the obvious exception of the disappearance of Roshaun, it seemed like the storyline was pretty much finished. After all, the Lone Power was now redeemed, through the creation of the Hesper, and dogs now had their own version of The One, with the apotheosis of Ponch. As an aside, I love the word "apotheosis." A girl doesn't get enough chances to say "apotheosis" in her lifetime
Duane does have a great story to tell here, though. Additionally, in this volume, we will finally get around to finding out what Carmela's ability (which is one of the few superpowers that I have ever found tempting) is. Yay!
Much to my surprise, the most pressing issue facing the characters after the end of "Wizards at War," the disappearance of Roshaun, gets surprisingly few pages in "A Wizard of Mars." Instead, the focus is on Nita's budding talent as a precognitive and, obviously, the Martian plotline. Kit is part of a team of wizards looking for evidence that there was ever any life on Mars. It would seem that the manuals would have the information, but they don't. Sometimes information is redacted from the manual (we saw this in the information on Rashah in "Wizards at War"), but more often information is missing because no one is alive who knows the information. It seems that this is the second type of situation.
There are two wizards who are new on the stage of the series, Irina Mladen, the Planetary Wizard for Earth, and Mamvish fsh Wimseh fsh Mentaff, who is a wizard from a planet called Wimst and is the Powers' Species Archivist.
Mamvish's job as species archivist is to find endangered species and convince them to come to another planet where they will be safe. She also is in charge of reviving species that have gone into long-term hibernation, stasis, etc., and convincing them to allow her to move them to safety, as well. Because of her position, and the need to move entire species to do her job, Mamvish has a lot of power available to her. In fact, she is one of the few wizards who are "abstainees." The Lone Power declined to turn up for her Ordeal. Despite her power levels and elevated position, Mamvish is, in Nita's words, "kind of a goof."
Kit had a sort of intuition that they should be searching in a particular location for the information they are looking for. While searching that area, another part of the team did find something there. Kit, Nita, Ronan, Darryl, Mamvish, Irina and Carmela travel to Mars, where a "superegg" has been found near where Kit thought that they should be looking. They examine the superegg, but nothing exciting happens. Later Kit sneaks back to Mars on his own and wakes the superegg up. The superegg sends out some kind of signal to four locations on the planet and the next day Kit, Darryl, and Ronan travel to Mars to investigate. A group of girls -- Nita, S'reee, and Carmela -- follow later in search of the boys.
Meanwhile, Dairine has been skipping school and disappearing. Nita tracks her sister down on Wellakh, where she is being trained in solar mechanics by Nelaid, Roshaun's father. Dairine and Nita's own father is worried about his younger daughter, so Dairine agrees to let their father watch her at work with Nelaid through a patch on Spot connected to Harry's cell phone. Dairine is convinced that Roshaun isn't dead, and when Nita looks up Roshaun's listing in her manual, Roshaun's physical status is blank, so she decides that perhaps Dairine isn't in denial after all.
Nita is still hearing the voice of the Peridexis, whom she has dubbed "Bobo." Nita thinks that this experience is somehow important, but cannot figure out how, so she doesn't spend a lot of time pondering it. I had flashbacks to my ex-husband talking about the book version of "A Beautiful Mind," when John Nash thinks that the aliens that he's hearing must be real, since they seem to be coming from the same place as the math does. According to my ex, Nash's logic is that if the math is real, then the voices must be, too. The connection to this book is that since the wizardry is real and Bobo seems to be coming from the same place, perhaps something similar is happening to Nita. Do I think that Nita is developing a psychosis? Probably not, particularly since Bobo can arrange it so that others can hear his/its voice as well. But it would certainly be a startling development if she was.
One of the things that took me out of the book was completely my own idiosyncrasy. You see, there are several references to Deimos, which is one of the moons of Mars. This makes perfect sense. However, I have a cat named Deimos (his twin brother is, of course, Phobos), so every time Deimos was mentioned, I had to stop to remind myself that it was a moon and not my cat. Another thing was that the guys call Darryl "Dar." Now, this is spelled differently from Dairine's nickname of "Dair," but they would be pronounced the same. Or substantially so, at any rate. I hope that Dairine and Darryl are never in a dangerous situation together. Someone yelling to warn one might end up getting the other one killed.
Now on to Carmela. I have been dying to get to this part since I started reviewing these books. So far, in a relatively short time, Carmela has picked up both Japanese and The Speech, neither of which is particularly easy (and according to the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State, Japanese is the most difficult (human) language for a native English speaker to pick up). When Carmela starts to read a monument that is written in a dead Martian language, S'reee theorizes that Carmela may have a version of what she calls the "steganographic gift," which is the ability to intuit the meaning of foreign languages without having studied the language. I pick up the basics of a language pretty quickly and have at least a passing familiarity with four foreign languages (Spanish, German, Mandarin, and Italian), and I'm starting on a fifth (Czech), so Carmela's gift really resonated with me. I don't know if I'd like to pick a new language up as quickly as Carmela does, since learning the language is at least part of the fun, but this is the closest I think I've ever come to thinking, "I would love to have that!" with regard to a superpower/magical gift.
Overall, I liked this book, though there was one weakness that I may end up covering in a spoiler capsule later that bothered me. I want to see where Nita's connection to the Peridexis is going. I also suspect that Dairine's search for Roshaun may go on for quite a few more books.