Young Wizards

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
So you want to be a wizard 2010 6220.jpg

Fairest and fallen, greetings and defiance!


An ongoing series of novels by Diane Duane (the first of which was published in 1983), set in a fictional analogue of the modern world where wizards are champions of "The Powers That Be" and given the ability to rewrite the universe using the Speech -- essentially reprogramming the universe and thus performing wizardry. Wizards can literally be anything (animals, robots, etc.) and can talk to anything. No, seriously, anything.

Their main duty is to travel through time and space to battle the Lone Power, the evil Power who created Entropy and Death, usually involving them heroically sacrificing their lives. (In fact, halfway through the first novel it is explicitly stated that someone usually has to die this way in order to defeat the Lone Power -- although it doesn't have to be a wizard.)

It has a sister series, Feline Wizards, which takes place in the same universe, but concerns a team of cat wizards who maintain the worldgate wizardry for New York City.

Notable because magic is presented as an advanced scientific principle, rather similar to the way Fullmetal Alchemist presents its alchemy. The series also includes lots of extraterrestrials, trips to other planets and moons, and a tendency to explain all mythology as being representative or descriptive of the actions of wizards and the Powers and all language as having been evolved from a natural innate ability to "speak" the Speech. This has the effect of making the YW series feel a lot more like a hybrid of semi-hard Science Fiction and mystic fantasy than it does pure action-adventure fantasy.

The books in the main series are:

  • So You Want To Be A Wizard: Nita Callahan and Kit Rodriguez become wizards and must use their newfound abilities to defend New York City, Earth, and possibly even the Universe itself from a supernatural threat.
  • Deep Wizardry: Nita and Kit discover that non-humans can be wizards too, and must work with Cetacean (whale) wizards to defeat a scheme to devastate the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
  • High Wizardry: Nita's precocious little sister Dairine becomes a wizard, and major fireworks ensue.
  • A Wizard Abroad: Nita travels to Ireland and finds out that wizardry is somewhat different there than in the United States.
  • The Wizard's Dilemma: Nita's mother develops a serious illness, and Nita enters dangerous wizardly waters in search of a cure.
  • A Wizard Alone: Nita and Kit must find a way to help a new Wizard, who is autistic, complete his wizardly "Ordeal" and gain full access to his abilities.
  • Wizard's Holiday: Nita and Kit go on "vacation" to an alien world which turns out to have a unique and knotty problem; meanwhile, back on Earth, Dairine has to cope with three alien "exchange student" wizards who have come to visit.
  • Wizards At War: A new danger appears, threatening all of Wizardry itself. Nita and Kit and Dairine gather all the other young wizards they've met, as well as some new ones, to find a way to restore the power of Wizardry before it's too late. They are only partially successful, and even then only through the direct intervention of dog God.
  • A Wizard of Mars: There may be signs of life on Mars, but while investigating, Kit begins to act strangely.
  • Games Wizards Play (Coming Sometime): Nita, Kit and Dairine coach contestants in a wizardly contest to win a year-long apprenticeship with Earth's Planetary Wizard, but all does not go as planned.

Tropes used in Young Wizards include:
  • Action Girl: Almost all the female characters classify as this. Yes, even girly Carmela. (Curling iron=laser gun.)
  • Adults Are Useless: Mostly averted. The younger the wizard, the stronger their magic, to make up for the lack of experiences. They still sometimes have to consult Senior Wizards though. In one of the books, someone muses that young wizards are better able to sacrifice themselves. However, in Wizards at War, the older wizards lose their powers and forget about magic. Without the advice of the older wizards, the younger wizards are very confused about what to do next. The point of experience is shown here.
  • And I Must Scream: The living, planet-sized computer chip on which Dairene's ordeal takes place averts this after being stuck playing it straight for untold eons.
    • Played straight for the aliens in A Wizard of Mars, who got a lot crazier after being stuck in suspended animation for thousands of years
    • Every inanimate object is sentient. Even food.
      • Not really sentient, as explained by both Nita and Kit, several times... but they "don't mind being treated as if they were".
  • Androcles' Lion: Played out with a sentient Lotus Esprit in the first book.
  • Anyone Can Die: And they probably will, if they have a nickname. (Lampshaded in the short story "Not On My Patch", where Kit questions if if's really a good idea for Nita to nickname her jack'o'lantern.)
  • Apocalyptic Log: Nita, S'reee, and Carmela find one in A Wizard of Mars
  • Ascended to A Higher Plane of Existence: Memeki and Ponch in Wizards at War, Saash in the first Feline Wizardry book
    • Don't forget Peach in High Wizardry.
      • That seemed more like Peach going home after Descending in the first place.
    • In Wizard's Holiday, it's the entire planet of Alaalu
  • Badass Normal: Carmela, Ed (if a giant possibly immortal shark can be called "normal"), and Nita's mom.
  • Because Destiny Says So: An odd take. "There is no such thing as coincidence" is practically the wizard credo, yet their entire system is based around choice. It essentially boils down this: the big things that happen are up to the decisions of mortals. All the little things that lead to those big things, not so much.
    • basically the Powers That Be will get the right person to the right place with the right tools to do what needs to be done, the hardest part is usually figuring out how to use the tools in question.
  • Call on Me[context?]
  • Carnivore Confusion: Wizards can talk to any animal and even vegetables and the Wizards Oath is about preserving life, yet wizards still need to eat to survive and cats aren't about to give up the pleasure of hunting mice and rats. Most of the time it's better not to think of this but there are in-universe justifications:
    • So You Want To Be A Wizard addresses this when Nita talks with the rowan tree about the war the trees fought (and won) against the Lone Power to make the world ready for humans, fully knowing that humans would not always be so nice in return.

Nita: "But...we make our houses out of you, we-- (...) We kill you and we write on your bodies!"
the Rowan: "Well, We are all in the Book together, after all. (...) We do what we have to, to live. Sometimes that means breaking a rock's heart, or pushing roots down into ground that screams against the intrusion. But we never forget what we're doing."

    • Nita acknowledges at one point that vegetables (on Earth at least) are less upset about being eaten than they are about being wasted. Waste contributes to entropy which is what the wizards work to counter. By that token, sport hunting is also discouraged (in A Wizard Abroad, Nita warns a fox who's been pestering nearby farmers to make himself scarce before the locals' planned foxhunt).
    • A better example is when Filif (a sentient tree-alien who's also a wizard) comes to visit. Dairine suggests "something vegetarian" for dinner, and then has to explain to Filif why they're not really murderous maniacs. Later, she decides to keep Filif (in a human disguise) away from the salad bar in the food court, because he'll think it's a massacre.
  • Cast From Lifespan: An (unfortunately) somewhat common tactic. Often, the more impressive spells will require more energy than the wizard currently has to cast, so they have to find an alternate way. For instance, when Nita goes up against the Lone Power in High Wizardry, she uses a shield that costs her a year of her life for each attack made against her it deflects.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Carmela's closet world gate.
  • Comic Book Time: No more than four years' of story time pass from first book (published in 1983) to the ninth (published in 2010), yet each novel is (technologically) set in the year it was published. And only a few months pass between books seven, eight, and nine.
    • However, the older books are being edited to avert Technology Marches On. The ebooks, first, but eventually the print copies will be changed, too.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Used and lampshaded repeatedly in the story; the Powers That Be are so fond of using apparent happenstance and coincidences to get wizards to be in just the right place to do their jobs that they can often be heard repeating the phrase "There's no such thing as coincidence" to themselves and each other.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? and Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: To be expected in a series where human teenagers fight Satan... and some of the instances are pretty dang awesome.
    • There's also an in-character moment of this in book seven, when Nita and Kit visit an alien world and see a recording of that species' Choice. In the recording, the whole thing goes down in about fifteen minutes, and not only does the species come out of it with lifespans in the thousands of years and without any particular cataclysm, when they die their souls stay in the world and remain in communication with their loved ones. And not only does the Lone One not do anything about this, She's bound herself into the world and can't leave... so they end up building her a place to stay, as a reminder of what to avoid, which mostly gets used as a tourist attraction. She's still there. They go to visit. Compared to life on Earth... these guys just punched out Cthulhu, and seem to have gotten away with it on an amazing scale.
      • "Seem" being the key word there.
    • During the climactic scene of High Wizardry, Nita uses one of the simplest spells she knows and two years of her life to teleport the Lone Power back to Timeheart. It is pissed.
  • Digital Bikini: The Message in a Bottle on Mars communicates by creating holodeck-like simulations of fictional Marses. Kit gets dropped into Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, complete with Green-Skinned Space Babe. Said Babe is wearing a Chainmail Bikini, rather than the jewelry-as-clothing featured in Burroughs' story. Kit wonders whether this is because of something built into the magic or his own mind chickening out on him.
  • Downer Ending: Wizard's Dilemma
    • Well, really, most of them are kind of bittersweet.
    • Wizards At War. Roshaun's deathlike disappearance, Ponch's deathlike Ascended to A Higher Plane of Existence status, and the fact that they barely succeeded, at the highest possible cost... Well, not the highest possible, but pretty close.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Nita really hates her middle name "Louise". Why? Long story... that NOBODY KNOWS. Grrr.
    • Also the incredibly weird story behind Carmela's middle name, Emeda. Though Carmela doesn't seem to mind.
  • Everybody Lives: A Wizard Alone, and A Wizard of Mars, amazingly.
    • Although both have the characters dealing with a death or disappearance that occurred in the last book.
  • Fantastic Voyage Plot: In the fifth novel, Wizard's Dilemma, Nita and Kit travel into a metaphysical representation of the body of Nita's mother.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The Powers That Be. Contains elements of All Myths Are True in that the diferent gods and saints people have worshiped over the years are all different aspects of the same Powers. That includes the feline pantheon too.
  • Fashion Dissonance: The cropped t-shirts that occasionally crop up in Nita and Dairine's wardrobe have become this.
  • Fighting a Shadow: The reason the Lone Power is still the primary enemy in every book, even after being banished, bound, defeated, or even redeemed at the end of every book -- It exists out of time, so defeating It in one place only defeats that part of It.
  • Foe Yay: Dairine and Roshaun, though they're on the same side.
  • Functional Magic: to the point where in all honesty, wizards seem more like the IT staff of the universe than anything else.
    • They are -- in W@W, Carl points out that "the Powers know what the universe acted like when it left the factory, but we're the ones who know the little noises it makes every day when it's running. And where to kick it to make them stop."
    • The original simile seems to have been "programmers" of the universe, but yeah.
      • They can do even cooler stuff if they get access to the kernel, and everything is right there in the man pages. The Young Wizards universe basically runs Linux. So I guess the Speech is bash? Or Perl?
  • Gadgeteer Genius[context?]
  • Gambit Roulette: Later books reveal that everything that's ever happened in the universe is in many ways a complex series of events planned out to turn the Lone Power good again and bring It back into the fold.
  • Geometric Magic: Spell diagrams are constructs written much like mathematical equations and wizards come up with a slew of inventive ways to make them portable.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Used over and over again as regards the Powers That Be, especially the One's Champion.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The Wizard's Manual. The ultimate example. You discover that a dragon is trying to eat Manhattan? Open your manual; the first page you turn to will be "Dragons: how to stop from eating large cities". The fact that they even custom-tailor themselves to the wizard who bears them is pointed out when Kit tries to list a page number for Nita, who finds something completely different in her book than Kit's on that same page.
    • There's the Book of Night With Moon, as it's known on Earth. Essentially, it's a magical catalogue listing and describing every object on reality. Occasionally, someone has to pull it out and perform what's called an 'affirmation-by-reading;' basically, reminding everything what it's supposed to be when something is trying to subvert reality. It's also treated as sort of fine-tuning the universe like an engine. (It works both ways -- with the right writing implement, it's possible to change a description in the Book and thus change the object described.)
  • Hammerspace: justified, in that wizards can use magic to create their own personal hammerspaces, called "claudications" in the novels.
  • Have You Tried Not Being a Wizard?: When she finally makes The Reveal that she's a wizard to her parents, they object to her taking on so much responsibility so young, and include a variation on this in their objections.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Used so much in the series, it's almost a joke. Don't get too attached to any character to whom Nita and Kit give a nickname!
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: the cats in the Feline Wizards series.
  • Inconvenient Summons[context?]
  • In the Name of the Moon: The traditional greeting to the Lone Power, some variant of "Fairest and fallen... greetings and defiance!" Just because you're fighting Satan doesn't mean you have to be rude about it.
    • There's also that no wizard in the universe expects the Lone Power's eventual permanent defeat to be brought about by killing it -- largely because that's impossible. What they do expect is that eventually, in the fullness of time, the Lone Power will finally surrender and redeem. And that's going to take long enough on its own, so no need to make the wait even longer by pissing it off with adding insult to injury. Even if/when does redeem, as an Eternal Power outside of time, it's not as bound by chronological causality as mortals are. Its evil self is/was/will be messing with Wizards in the future simultaneously.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: In the sixth novel, A Wizard Alone, Nita and Kit travel into the mind of an autistic wizard.
  • The Joy of X: So You Want To Be A Wizard.
  • Killed Off for Real[context?]
  • Language of Magic/Language of Truth: the Speech. Even the Lone Power can't lie while using the Speech.
  • Little Miss Badass: Dairine and Nita both. Given how young wizards tend to be chosen, this trope is to be expected.
  • Mage in Manhattan[context?]
  • Magical Computer: Literally; though Nita and Kit have book-form Manuals and the animals tend to listen to the ocean or wind or whatever, some of the newer human wizards have their manual in laptop or iPod form (a Mac laptop, no less, coincidentally. Either Duane's been paid a lot by Apple Computers over the last 20 years or so, or she really likes Macs...)
    • It can give the impression that the computers in question resembled Macs mainly because of the symbolism of having their logos be an apple without a bite out of it. (Think Adam and Eve.)
    • Notably, Dairine's Manual Spot came into her possession as an Apple IIe with the unbitten apple logo. Though given that the first out-of-the-ordinary ability Spot displayed was a backup utility which duplicates hardware as well as files, it's perhaps not too far-fetched to suggest hardware upgrades can similarly be treated like software.
    • The book-form manuals have Magical Computer functions as well, getting new info when needed, having search, calculator, atlas and spell-storage functions, etc.
      • ... instant messaging...
      • Darryl has a WizPod. Somebody really likes Macs.
        • Duane herself has even done a digital image of the Wiz Pod. Yeah, she likes Apple. A lot.
  • Mama Bear: Dairine and her "buddies," a race of sentient silicon lifeforms she helped "birth" -- since they came into existence, all the Bad Guy has to do is suggest a threat toward them and said Bad Guy will immediately suffer The Wrath of Dairine. (The "buddies" even refer to her as "Mother" in a few instances.) Also, Nita Callahan's mother in The Wizard's Dilemma, when she beats the living crap out of the Lone Power. She manages to do this only because the fight is within her own body, but still.
  • Mental Fusion: Happens during group spellcasting.
  • Metafictional Title: The first book of the series is named for the title taken by the book within the series that teaches young potentials how to become wizards.
  • Mindlink Mates: Wizards who are romantically intimate with each other experience the mental as well as the physical connection. This is how Nita finds out Ronan is the new host for the One's Champion.
  • The Multiverse: An infinity of alternate timelines, with (possibly) one central, "true" universe (Timeheart, where things are preserved in their true, good form) -- but it most definitely is not ours. Think of a fractal onion.
  • Neural Implanting: Combined with Brain Uploading in the third book.
  • Official Couple: Nita and Kit, as of the end of A Wizard of Mars.
  • Place Beyond Time: Timeheart
  • Portal Network: The worldgates. Carmela has one in her closet!
  • Powers as Programs: see above notes under Functional Magic.
  • Powers That Be: literally.
  • Primordial Chaos: Eternity, the place outside of time where the Powers That Be dwelt before they created the universes. The most powerful of the Powers still exist mainly in Eternity, projecting mere fragments of themselves into the universes to interact with things that exists inside of time.
  • Reality Writing Book: The Book of Night With Moon
  • Reconstruction: A Wizard of Mars is essentially a study in creating a modern-day story that both justifies and explains the now-discredited in serious fiction "invaders from Mars" plot.
  • Rewriting Reality: what the Speech does. Writing names requires especial care. Famously, Nita rewrote the name of the Lone Power while reading the Book of Night With Moon, opening the chance for Its redemption.
  • Rule of Cool: the attitude wizards seem to take towards solving problems.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: The series features Cetacean wizards (the Trek novel contains a Shout-Out to them). Of course, pretty much everyone and everything with more brains than a sponge has Wizarding potential in this setting.
  • Satan: The Lone Power, though seeing as he has to trick species into accepting death and entropy, he also represents the darker aspects of the Trickster gods of Native American legends.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The wizard's manual describes plain old things like teleportation in insanely impossible-to-understand words. Justified in that magic is based on telling the universe what you want it to do in a very specific manner. You need to be able to split hairs and use precise diction. Especially when you want to do things like bring air with you on your jaunt to the moon. If you miswrite a name, the named changes to fit.
  • She's All Grown Up: Kit and Nita both realize this about each other in A Wizard of Mars
  • Some Call Me... Tim: Fred the sentient white hole, Ed the Shark and Filif the tree-like alien.
  • So You Want To: Be a Wizard?
  • Someone Has to Die: It is an established rule in the books that, to defeat the Lone Power, someone or something must die.
    • Usually.
  • Speak of the Devil: Referring to the Lone Power, even in the most indirect manner, risks attracting Its attention. And heaven Timeheart help you if you speak, write, or even think Its true name...
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Wizardry runs in families, namely Nita's. Probably has more to do with inheritable traits that make a good wizard more than any "wizard gene", since it must still be offered by The Powers to whom they believe is appropriate.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: A common theme in the books. Especially present in High Wizardry.
  • Talking Animal: though still they have their own dialects. Everything understands the Speech, but that doesn't mean that it has to be their main language system.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: Happens to Kit, sort of in A Wizard of Mars. It's... complicated.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted. Nita receives counseling from her school's psychologist after her mom's death. At first she thinks of it as a waste of time because she can't talk about her real problems. However, when she takes the chance of greeting him in the traditional manner of wizards he responds in kind.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: If it must be absolutely pristine, try mining it from the asteroid while it is still in deep space.
    • More specifically, in A Wizard Abroad, to remake the Spear Luin, they had to get iron from the beginning of the universe from the heart of a star, because no modern iron would be perfect enough to hold the spear's soul, a pure essence of the element of fire. And Dairine does this, earning herself a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Time Travel: Mostly in the Feline Wizards series, though it is used in the first book of the main series so that the two child protagonists can have an adventure yet still get back home in time for dinner, thus preventing their parents from interfering with their work.
  • Translator Microbes: The Language of Magic that wizards use lets them be understood by all living things (and all non-living things, too), and also lets them understand all languages.
    • Usually. According to the manual itself (through its vocal presence in Nita's head) in A Wizard of Mars, a living context must exist first - even wizardry and the Speech can't translate a language hundreds of thousands of years dead.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: Particularly memorable when Nita has to explain to the school guidance counselor in the eighth book as to why she's going to need a couple of weeks off from school. It helps that he's one of the very, very few Muggles in on the whole wizardry thing.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Even when not speaking in the Language of Truth, wizards try to avoid lying, since when your job is Rewriting Reality using words, lying is a Bad Idea.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: Not surprising, given that the Lone Power is the enemy of the protagonists.
    • Amongst wizards, a "wizard's holiday" is somewhat of an inside joke, being a "vacation or pleasure trip that rapidly turned into something else, usually involving work, but that was still pleasant in a strange way, simply because of the change."
  • World of Silence: In High Wizardry, Dairine's mobiles planned to do away with entropy on a universal scale, creating a Universe of Silence as a side-effect. In fitting with the trope, they are persuaded otherwise when she links her consciousness to theirs, allowing them to understand the importance of human experience.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: The entire premise of magic is that wizards can learn to speak the language the universe understands and ask it to do things for them. Since they are wizards, the universe is obliged to do these things...for a price.