High Wizardry (Young Wizards #3) by Diane Duane
Remember in "Deep Wizardry" when Nita realized that Dairine was a potential wizard? Well, Nita gets less time to adjust to that new knowledge than she had expected. Within what is apparently days of returning from the Hamptons, Dairine has become a wizard and gone off on Ordeal into deep space.
The day after Dairine takes the Oath, the Callahans get a new computer. While her parents are arguing about how to set up the computer, Dairine goes ahead and sets it up herself. Soon she discovers that there is a lot more data on the disk than there should be room for. It doesn't take long for her to realize that the computer contains a wizard's manual and she figures out how to take off with it without her parents noticing.
Kit and Nita are planning to take a trip to the Planetarium in Manhattan and the Callahans make them take Dairine with them. Inspired by her surroundings, Dairine decides to actually visit Mars. She leaves the gateway open and Nita and Kit realize that she must have taken the Oath and now she's gone off-planet on Ordeal.
Upon Nita and Kit's return to Long Island, Tom and Carl explain that the computer version of the Manual is something new that the advisories are testing to see if it will save the lives of wizards on Ordeal. It turns out that of the thousands of kids who disappear each year, most are runaways or kidnap victims. However, some are wizards on Ordeal, and some of them never return. The computer manual is designed to prevent some of the errors that beginning wizards make and bring the kids home safely.
We follow Dairine as she hops across the galaxy (and then out of the galaxy). Along the way, we get to see The Crossings for the first time. The Crossings is a gating facility on Rirhath B, which orbits Epsilon Indi (see image). We will be back to The Crossings in future books, most notably "Wizard's Holiday" and "Wizards at War."
Dairine is surprised and fascinated at the forms intelligent life comes in throughout the galaxy. Though after a while she begins to long for something a little more like what she is used to. Alas, she won't be getting her wish for a while. Because at The Crossings, Dairine is discovered by some of the henchmen of the Lone Power. She ends up leaving the galaxy in order to evade them
We get a chance to see things from Dairine's point of view, including why Dairine is so scarily smart. When Nita came home from her first day of kindergarten in tears because the teacher asked questions that Nita did not know about, Dairine decided that knowledge truly was power and she went after that knowledge eagerly. Anything that Dairine attempted to learn, she picked up rapidly. And her thirst for knowledge led her to become a keen observer as well. She notices things, both about the world around her and about the behavior and motivations of others, that others miss.
One of the most fascinating parts of "High Wizardry," for me, at least, is the structure. "High Wizardry" is told from alternating third-person points of view, much like some of the other books I have reviewed, such as Riordan's "Heroes of Olympus" series. However, rather than breaking off and telling separate adventures, here, Duane has the two protagonists -- Nita and Dairine -- telling the same events slightly out of sync with one another.
For example, the book starts out with Nita's perspective of events from point B to point D. Then we switch to Dairine and go from point A to point C. Eventually, the two split up and then switch so that Dairine's events occur before Nita's do, but even then, they are still covering the same points, since Nita and Kit are following Dairine -- we see the places that Dairine has been right after she left.
Best of all, as with most of the other books in the series, is the characters. We meet two important characters who will have major effects down the line. Or maybe we meet thousands of my favorite character. I guess it depends on how you look at it. We also say good-bye to one of my favorite characters. But there is something of a balance here, as we also set up the entrance of three more of characters that I absolutely love, as well.
I do have to warn, not for sexual violence (this is a middle grade/young adult series, after all), but for a scene that makes some of the people who have read this book uncomfortable. Something happens to Dairine without her consent, and Duane describes the occurrence as being painful.
Also, there are two minor errors that I caught in this reread. One is the speed that the Earth spins on its axis, which is given as 17,000 miles per hour. The Earth actually spins at around 1,700 kilometers, or 1,000 miles, per hour. Since the Earth has a circumference of around 24,000 miles, if the Earth spun 17,000 miles per hour, a day would last less than an hour. Additionally, once she arrives at the end of her journey, Dairine wishes she had gone to the bathroom at the Natural History museum. This would be kind of a challenge, as she went, not to the Natural History museum, but to the Planetarium.
Despite these things, this may be my favorite book in the series. The chase format makes the book move quickly and watching what Dairine does on her final stop is awesome. I can see why the Powers chose Dairine for the task. The entrance of some much-beloved characters (whom we will see again in at least one future book) is a huge plus. And the very end of the confrontation with the Lone One is some of Duane's most beauriful writing in the series.