A Wizard Alone
In the aftermath of her mother’s death, Nita is struggling to deal with her grief while helping her father run the household and keeping her younger sister from playing truant. At the same time she starts receiving strange dreams that seem to be an attempt to communicate with her. Meanwhile Kit has been assigned a new job: a new wizard named Daryl, whose Ordeal–the initiatory trial of a wizard–has gone on for months. Gradually they begin to suspect that Nita’s dreams are connected with Daryl, who is far more than a simple missing wizard.
This is defintely a fun and engaging book, if not the most intense that Duane has ever written. Nita’s emotions and her interactions with her family ring largely true. The concepts that Duane plays around with are definitely interesting. I do think that the solution to Daryl’s problem is a little easy, but it does work within the logic of the story. And the sublot about Kit’s younger sister was very amusing. (Not to mention the consequences of working magic around a VCR.)
Morally, the book is mostly quite good. The series is becoming much more definitely monotheistic; A Wizard Alone spends far less time on the Powers than it does on the One. I don’t know if Duane’s beliefs have changed, or if she’s simply adding depth to her universe, but it’s interesting. Even more intriguing, in my opinion, is the concept of “abdels.” As Nita’s manual explains,
Their role . . . is to channel the One’s power without obstruction into the strengthening of the world. . . . Their status comes from direct endowment by the One; their power is derived strictly from the incorrupt nature of their personality.
I don’t know anything about Duane’s religious beliefs or background, but darned if she hasn’t created the best metaphor for sainthood and the communion of saints that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s definitely cool.
There’s only one problem with the morality in this book: Nita is ready and willing to wipe someone’s memory to preserve the secret of her wizardry. Wiping somebody’s memory without consent is a hideous violation. It’s a form of god-playing, denying someone not just freedom but choice, trimming his psyche and perception of reality to fit your convenience. You might, just might be able to justify it if there were extraordinary grounds–say, the only other alternative was killing the person. But Nita’s prepared to mind-wipe someone simply to avoid awkward questions. It apalls me that this motif so common in fantasy novels where the heroes are trying to conceal a magical reality from the “normal world,” and it saddens me that an otherwise good author has fallen prey to it.
Content-wise there’s not much of anything bad, and aside from that one flaw the book is pretty much fine, so overall it’s quite recommendable.