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.
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.
A few short stories are also set in the universe:
Theobroma - A side story involving none of the usual characters; instead, we're introduced to Ken, an adult, work-a-day wizard who does "agency work", consulting on problems both magical and mundane. Today's assignment: help a woman fill the sudden vacancy in her gourmet chocolate shop. Turns out her chocolate-making partner isn't the only thing that left...
Uptown Local - Set shortly after So You Want To Be A Wizard. Kit and Nita are bored and pester Tom for entertainment: he sends them off to go ride the New York subway. Actually, several New York's subways.
Not On My Patch - Set after A Wizard of Mars. It's Halloween, a day where many wizards can get away with flaunting a little magic in the open, and after what had been a rough year, Nita, Dairine and her Dad decide to have a proper Halloween celebration. It's fallen to Nita to carve the pumpkin...a rather misshapen specimen her father brought home. She ends up having a philosophical discussion with the pumpkin about its opinion on the matter, and then in a bout of odd sentimentality, decides to bring it with her trick-or-treating. Joined by Kit and Ronan, they hit the streets and visit Tom and Carl's neighborhood haunted house. All and all, a great evening, until the pumpkin starts feeling something very wrong happening in its home patch...
These books provide examples of:
Action Girl: Almost all the female characters classify as this. Yes, even girly Carmela. (Curling iron=laser gun.)
A Child Shall Lead Them: In Deep Wizardry, S'ree becomes a Senior at a very young age because the Lone One made a whaling boat kill her mentor. This puts her in charge of the Song of the Twelve, which is basically the most important ritual in the sea—the last time it failed, an entire continent was destroyed. In Wizards at War, the older wizards lose their wizardry, which means that all the high-ranking positions like Senior are temporarily held by people who are fourteen at most.
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.
All Myths Are True: The Powers that Be have appeared in the past as many different gods or angels. The fourth book delved deep into Celtic Mythology and showed that many things were somewhat true.
Alternate Universe: Nita and Kit spend a lot of the first book in a terrifying alternate New York. They go on a tour of other, less creepy ones in "Uptown Local".
And I Must Scream: The living, planet-sized computer chip on which Dairine'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
The Lone Power in book 7. The events described below in Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? make for a very horrible life for her. Basically, she is the devil living for thousands of years on a utopic world.
Also the fate of The Lone Power in A Wizard Alone when Darryl traps it in his mind world with his autistic self.
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 it's really a good idea for Nita to nickname her jack'o'lantern.)
Artistic License - Geography: Given a Hand Wave in an "Admonition to the Reader" before "A Wizard Abroad". She explains that the book geography of Ireland isn't necessarily the same in real life.
Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: In High Wizardry, Peach, having been the current form of the One's champion in disguise. In Wizards at War Memeki and Ponch. In The Book of Night With Moon, Saash. In Wizard's Holiday, it's the entire planet of Alaalu.
Badass Decay: Dairine. She starts out as a badass in the third book but falls far just to get to above normal abilities. But this fall is normal for all wizards after their initial ordeal.
Bad Ass Normal: Carmela, Ed (if a giant possibly immortal shark can be called "normal"), and Nita's mom.
Battle Cry: The "Eldest, fairest, and fallen... greeting and defiance!" line generally serves, but sometimes it gets more specific:
From the Song of the Twelve performance in Deep Wizardry: "So rage, proud Power: fail again! And see my blood teach Death to die!"
From The Wizard's Dilemma: "Agree to stop doing what you’re doing, or I must abolish you."
From "Not On My Patch": One of the shortest of the formal demon-management notifications: "Willing followers of the Fallen, be warned by me! We are on the business of the Powers that Be, and by Their power vested in us, unless you dispense forthwith to your own places, we will utterly undo and abolish you!"
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.
Carnivore Confusion: Wizards can talk to any animal and even vegetables and the Wizard's 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 Liused, the backyard 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!"
Liused: "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 to block his attacks. Since said Lone Power is so powerful, the cost of a successful block is a year of her life for each attack made against her.
Before that, in the first book, Kit and Nina sacrifice a span of their life to place a dragon in a time loop and there is much angst over how they'll never truly know how long they would have lived, and therefore where their life will be snipped short. The description of the phenomena makes it sound more like fate arranging for an earlier death than some sort of physical degeneration.
It turns out in the next book that the amount of lifespan they gave up was basically "all of it". Thankfully, Ed the shark steps in and offers his lifespan in their stead.
Carmela's laser dissociator, an actual gun! First gotten in book 6, used in book 8.
Comic Book Time: No more than four years worth of story 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.
As of 2011, the older books are being edited to have a coherent timeline in the modern day; first the ebooks, and eventually the print copies will be changed.
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.
Convection Schmonvection: Averted and possibly played straight in the same scene in book 8. While running through different worlds, Ponch brings them through a lava field. While only there for less than a second, the bottom of Nita's shoes were affected. While nothing specifically is stated of the other people wearing shoes, apparently, Ponch (a dog), Sker'ret (a large centipede-like alien) and Filliff (a tree) are apparently unaffected.
The reverse (cold temperatures) is in effect a number of times. While averted in the second books while their force field leaked in cold from the moon, on many planets and moons, they are shown to be able to pick up objects that should be freezing on such planets. Case in point was in book 8 when Dairine and Roshaun were lying on the silicon ground of a planet that is far from its sun. She also picks up the Mobiles (artificial life forms made of metal) when they should be extremely cold.
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's 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 keep 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.
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.
Fantastic Racism: Briefly with the Mobiles. They felt that slowlife (biological life) was inferior to quicklife (computer life).
Fantastic Voyage Plot: In the fifth novel, Wizard's Dilemma, Nita, Kit, and Ponch 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 different 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.
Foreign Exchange Student: The plot of the seventh book except replacing student with wizards. Nita , Kit, and Ponch go to one planet while three wizards from different planets come to stay with Dairine.
Functional Magic: to the point where in all honesty, wizards seem more like the IT staff and programmers of the universe than anything else. 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."
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 as XKCD says, perl?
Gadgeteer Genius: Kit's initial affinity is for mechanical and electronic devices.
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.
Hammerspace: justified, in that wizards can use magic to create their own personal hammerspaces, called "claudications" in the novels.
Hellish Copter: Nita and Kit have to fight a living helicopter that is out to kill them. It basically ends after Kit shoots off the tail rotor. We later find out it was just protecting it's babies.
Heroic Sacrifice: Used so much in the series, it's almost a joke. Don't get too attached to any character Nita and Kit give a nickname to!
Holy Is Not Safe: Used on a regular basis. Anything really holy (associated with The One, or the benevolent Powers That Be) is probably also powerful enough to be catastrophically dangerous if mishandled.
Imaginary Friend: Nita had one when she was young, blaming things she did on "Bobo." Dairine asks if the Peredexis (wizarding speaking to Nita) is that. It isn't, however in book 9, she nicknames the peredexis Bobo for the fun of it.
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, he's not as bound by chronological causality as mortals are. His evil self is/was/will be messing with Wizards in the future simultaneously.
Magic Pants: Averted in "Deep Wizardry" when Sree, a whale, tells Nita and Kit that they must remove their bathing suits before changing into whales.
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. In-universe, the wizards designing the electronic manuals to resemble Macs because of the symbolism of having their logos be an apple without a bite out of it. (Think Adam and Eve, and the theme of a species' Choice to accept the Lone Power's "gift" of entropy.) Out of universe, Duane just really likes apple products (though the YW wiki maintains Windows and Android versions of the manual are being developed.)
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 (and Dariane got into the beta testing program for new hardware thanks to her experience with Spot).
The book-form manuals have Magical Computer functions as well, getting new info when needed, having instant messaging and mail, search, calculator, atlas and spell-storage functions, etc.
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.
Masquerade: Most of Earth's human wizards practice in secret, though some aboriginal cultures with less modern/European belief systems accept wizardry as real. Among the universe though, Earth is in the minority.
Metafictional Title: The first book of the series is named for the book within the series that teaches young potentials how to become wizards.
Mind Link 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.
Mundane Utility: Casual wizardries are used for everything from relocating crabgrass to raiding a friend's fridge from three blocks away. There are occasional side effects, such as Kit's home theater getting interplanetary cable.
The Nudifier: Accidental with Dairine when she told Spot to transform her clothes into a dress before realizing it would expose her to Roshaun. She suffered an internal Naked Freak-Out knowing that she can't move without having a major Wardrobe Malfunction.
The Omnipresent: The Transcendent Pig. An Earth pig that has somehow managed to become sentient and universally transcendent, it reveals itself whenever it thinks it's funny.
Polly Wants a Microphone: Wizards' pets all tend to get smarter and stranger, but Tom and Carl's prophetic macaw Peach is unusually intelligent and gifted (not to mention cranky). This is because she's a mortal incarnation of one of the Powers.
Primordial Chaos: Eternity, the place outside of time where the Powers That Be dwelled 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.
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 when spoken by a wizard (non-wizardly Speech speakers are unaffected because magic only happens if The Powers will it). 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.
Sentient Vehicle: In the first book, Kit and Nita encounter cars, including a Lotus Esprit who are alive and acting as predators/prey in the urban jungle of Manhattan.
Sapient Cetaceans: The series features Cetacean wizards (the Trek novel Dark Mirror 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: Because All Myths Are True, the Lone Power serves as the basis for humanity's stories about Satan and similar figures, though seeing as he has to trick species into accepting death and entropy, he may also have given rise to the Trickster gods of Native American legends.
Sequel Gap: There's an eight-year gap between A Wizard Abroad and The Wizard's Dilemma, when the series was picked up by a new publishing house.
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.
Someone Has to Die: It is an established rule in the books that, to defeat the Lone Power, someone or something must die.
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.
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.
Technology Marches On: Though the books hold up well, it can be jarring to compare the tech in So You Want to Be A Wizard with A Wizard of Mars, or even High Wizardry, especially because despite there being nine books in the series, they've still only covered a comparatively short period of time in the characters' lives. Revised editions of the first nine books are being released in ebook form (with physical books to follow eventually) to reflect some of the social and technological changes since their publication.
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.
It is the solution to the problem in A Wizard of Mars.
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, context must exist first - even wizardry and the Speech can't translate a language hundreds of thousands of years dead.
Invoked in books 7 and 8 where Nita and Dairine's father was given an automatic translator that worked to allow him to understand the Speech as long as he had it on his body.
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.
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.
Word of Gay: Tom and Carl. According to a troper on this site, he "was an acquaintance of Diane Duane's before she moved to Ireland, and was present when she confirmed to a small audience at a reading that Carl and Tom are indeed a gay couple — but added at the same time that she'd never say so explicitly in the books" (partly because they're books in the Young Adult section, partly because they're based off two straight friends of Duane's). Frankly, you could call them Heterosexual Life-Partners and no one would be the wiser if all they read are the books.
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.