Wizard’s Holiday, by Diane Duane (Harcourt Press, 2003)

The seventh book in Diane Duane’s long-running Young Wizards series picks up shortly after the previous one, A Wizard Alone, left off. For teen wizards Kit Rodriguez and Nita Callahan, it’s one of their favorite times of the year: spring break. They’re both looking forward to some time away from school, though pressures at home are putting a strain on them both. Nita’s starting to crack under the pressure of adjusting to life without her mother, while at Kit’s house, things are getting -weird- thanks to magical leakage. When his sister starts hanging out in alien chatrooms, he knows things have gone way past normal. Luckily, our heroes are about to get the chance of a lifetime. Thanks to Nita’s younger sister Dairine, also a wizard, Kit and Nita travel across the galaxy in a wizard exchange program, to the idyllic world of Alaalu. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Dairine gets to play host to a trio of otherworldly wizards from decidedly different backgrounds: the centipede-like Sker’ret, the ambulatory tree Filif, and the arrogant elflike Roshaun. And naturally, things don’t go smoothly.

On Alaalu, Kit, Nita, and Kit’s faithful dimension-hopping dog Ponch begin to suspect things aren’t what they seem. Their investigations into the history and culture of Alaalu unearth a deadly secret, and bring them into direct confrontation with their old enemy, the Lone Power. But this aspect of the Lone Power is unlike any they’ve ever battled before. As it says, “I was getting bored with absolute evil.” Can they trust it? Dare they, when a planet’s future is at stake? Back home, a sudden crisis could end all life on Earth, unless Dairine and her three visitors can stop arguing and work together.

Unlike the other books in the series, Wizard’s Holiday sets direct seeds for a sequel by laying several minor subplots that aren’t resolved by the end of the book. Luckily, Duane has constructed this story well enough that familiarity with the previous books isn’t required, just suggested. As always, her heroes struggle with a certain grey area of morality, with an unusual level of sophistication mixed with splendid characterization. This is one series I can’t recommend enough, and Wizard’s Holiday is one of the strongest offerings to date; I couldn’t stop reading.

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