A Wizard of Mars, by Diane Duane (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, upper middle grade/YA, 546 pages in ARC form), is the ninth book of The Young Wizards series. And it's most better read after the earlier books; indeed, much of the first 100 or so pages is essentially a reunion of characters met in previous books. Which is fun in its own way...but then things get really exciting.
Because up on Mars, the Young Wizards--Kit, Nita, and co.--are part of a team investigating a Martian "message in a bottle." In this case, it's a mysterious egg-like object, that may hold the clues to the mysteries of Mars' past. Because once upon a time, there were Martians...
Kit heads off to Mars on his own, and sets off the opening of the egg. All Martian magical hell breaks loose, in a chain reaction that brings the Young Wizards face to face with imagined versions of Mars for the boys of the group, and a revelation of the history of Mars for the girls. This gender division doesn't happen by chance. Both groups are being set up as part of a plan hatched thousands of years in the past, when Mars was truly a planet of war. And if Kit and Nita aren't clever and determined enough to figure out what's going on, the Martians might come to life again, and set their sights on Earth.
Kit and Nita are growing older, with all the concomitant baggage that entails. This shapes their encounters with the ancient inhabitants of Mars in a much more YA ish way than was the case with their previous adventures in the series (which is to say, the question of their feelings for each other is part of the plot). Even though the story qua story was fascinating (once it really got going), I was most particularly interested in the relationship of these two characters whose story I have been following since So You Want to Be a Wizard, the first book, was published way back in 1983 (yoiks!), and I wasn't disappointed in this regard (and now I really want the next book to come soon!).
Duane delivers her trademark plenitude of fun detail, with heaping servings of wizardry, folks with various special talents, a fascinating alien race, and considerable humor. Although I was put off a tad by the slow start, once things got going, I was deeply absorbed. One of my favorite books, I think, in the series.
Here's a fun and detailed recap at araine's writings and stuff.
(arc recieved from the publisher at ALA midwinter)