Nita and Kit, two teenaged wizards, are vacationing on the coast when they’re called in by a whale named S’reee. The Lone Power is angry over the defeat that Nita and Kit inflicted on it, and S’reee wants them to help bind it with an ancient ritual called the Song of the Twelve. Nita quickly agrees to become one of the celebrants; but after being sworn in, she discovers that she’s put herself in far more danger than she imagined.
This book, a sequel to So You Want to Be a Wizard, is darker and–to my mind–a lot more compelling. Nita and Kit are called upon to make larger sacrifices. Nita has to deal with the stress her wizardry puts on her family, and come to terms with the fact that she’s in a position of greater power and responsibility than her parents. And it’s one of the few books that’s managed to convince me that the main character could actually die.
On the moral level, this book has the same vague, non-Christian worldview of the previous one. Again the heroes are battling the Lone Power; it becomes even more of a devil-figure in this book, as we are told the story of how it tempted the whales with a mysterious “Gift” that was actually death. Ten whales were tempted; three fell, three resisted, and three remained undecided. The tenth, realizing that sooner or later another whale would fall and tilt the balance, accepted the Gift but immediately gashed herself open on a piece of coral, knowing that the sharks would smell her blood and eat her. This sacrifice lessened the effect of death on the whales and bound the Lone Power.
Certainly the idea of self-sacrifice is a Christian one, and it’s hard not to note the Fall/Redemption parallels. However, it’s interesting to not that the “Fall” of the whales is purely physical in nature, bringing them death but no apparent increase of sin. Furthermore, it’s debatable whether their “redemption” is accomplished through self-sacrifice or suicide.
That said, there’s a lot of good in this book. Again, good and evil are clearly delineated; the idea of using evil means to achieve good ends is rejected. Nita truly respects and cares about her parents: she does not casually disobey or ignore them, and in the end she realizes that it’s best to tell them the truth. Woven into the story are themes of keeping promises, paying debts, and self-sacrifice to the point of laying down your life for others. I think Deep Wizardry definitely belongs in the category of “virtuous pagan.”