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Literature / Young Wizards

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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.)

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.

Those who will,
The Powers lead;
and Those who won't
They drag.

The books in the main series are:

  1. So You Want To Be A Wizard (1983): 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.
  2. Deep Wizardry (1985): 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.
  3. High Wizardry (1990): Nita's precocious little sister Dairine becomes a wizard, and major fireworks ensue.
  4. A Wizard Abroad (1993): Nita travels to Ireland and finds out that wizardry is somewhat different there than in the United States.
  5. The Wizard's Dilemma (2001): Nita's mother develops a serious illness, and Nita enters dangerous wizardly waters in search of a cure.
  6. A Wizard Alone (2002): 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.
  7. Wizard's Holiday (2003): 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.
  8. Wizards at War (2005): 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.
  9. A Wizard of Mars (2010): There may be signs of life on Mars, but while investigating, Kit begins to act strangely.
  10. Games Wizards Play (2016): 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.

The first nine books were rereleased as New Millennium editions from 2012–2019, creating a more cohesive timeline among other changes.

In the years-long gap between the publication A Wizard of Mars and Games Wizards Play, three shorter pieces were written and published digitally though Duane's own website, collected in 2015 for both digital and online-only print-on-demand in the volume Interim Erranty. They form a holiday trilogy being set around Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day respectively. They include:

  • Not On My Patch - 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...
  • How Lovely Are Thy Branches: A Young Wizards Christmas - Thanks to a record-breaking blizzard, a two-day party (including epic sleepover) takes place at the Rodriguez house, during which Carmela finally manages to grant a long-held wish of her best wizardly friend, the tree-shaped Filif, by getting him fully decked out in Christmas decorations.
  • Lifeboats - Kit, Nita, Dairine and Rolan (among others) are called upon for an emergency evacuation of an entire alien race to new planets, because their moon is about to break up and the pieces will crash into the planet, in full-blown Armageddon style. Problem is, millions of the aliens almost inexplicably don't want to leave even in the face of unavoidable death and no one truly understands why. Kit, meanwhile, is fretting about Valentine's Day and even a race to save a world isn't enough to get it off his mind.

A second novella collection, Interim Errantry 2: On Ordeal, released in 2017. Each story in the collection focuses on a different wizard and their first trial against the Lone Power.

Miscellaneous short stories set in the universe include:

  • Uptown Local (1986) - 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.
  • Theobroma (2007) - 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...
  • Owl Be Home For Christmas (2020) - The true story of the saw-whet owl that was found in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020 and how it rescued its tree.

There's also 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.

These books provide examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: In Games Wizards Play, Dairine's mentee, Mehrnaz, is taking emotional abuse from her mother for doing so well in the competition, she's expected to lose because by doing well she's supposedly showing up other members of the family. This abuse is also coming from other members of her extended family as well.
  • Action Girl: Almost all the female characters classify as this. Yes, even girly Carmela. (Curling iron=laser gun.)
  • Adults Are Useless: Mostly averted; senior wizards are very necessary, and even non-magical adults are often helpful (even Nita's mom making her go to Ireland because she thinks Nita needs space from Kit is actually helpful in the end). The younger the wizard, the stronger their magic, to make up for the lack of experience, but the advice of older wizards is always important. 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, which makes an already-bad situation worse, because although the younger wizards temporarily inherit their offices, they don't have the maturity and experience.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: Inverted. Kit's entertainment system has a rebellious streak, and when he tries to use wizardry to talk it into behaving it starts getting cable from other planets.
  • 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 and more weird ones in "Uptown Local".
  • Always Identical Twins :Averted with the only twins mentioned, Tran Liem Tuyet and Tram Hung Nguyet (boy and girl respectively).
  • 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.
  • Androcles' Lion: In the first book, Kit saves a Lotus Esprit by removing wreckage from its axle. It then goes on to help him and Nita a number of times later, including stalling the Lone Power to allow them to get away back to their universe. This is even underscored by the fact that the car acts a great deal like a giant cat or dog, both in how it originally attempts to hunt them and in its loyalty after Kit saves it.
  • 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.) This could get interesting seeing that in Games Wizards Play, Nita gave Jupiter a nickname.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Nita, S'reee, and Carmela find one in A Wizard of Mars.
  • Apologetic Attacker: While Nita doesn't say it to their faces, she does apologize in a low voice when she is killing each Tawalf in "Wizards at War".
  • 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 population of Alaalu.
  • Author Appeal: This is not the first book Duane has written in which the universe is slowly but inevitably running down, and the heroes must use The Power of Love to make things better while acknowledging everything will still eventually die. Also, in which the heroes befriend a sentient manifestation of pure fire, teach him about things like the Power of Friendship and other joys of human life, and he sacrifices himself to defeat a powerful opponent. Although Sunspark gets better, and Fred doesn't.
  • 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.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Dairine and Roshaun, though they genuinely dislike each other at first; Dairine thinks (correctly) that Roshaun is a Spoiled Brat prince before she learns about his Chains of Commanding and Roshaun thinks Dairine rude and uncouth.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Nice, quiet Nita has a spell memorized that can make all the cell membranes in your body disappear, the results are somewhat messy.. Later, faced with a bunch of aliens wielding fusion-powered weaponry, she puts a spell together to interfere with the containment fields; that goes into the Manual as "Callahan’s Unfavorable Instigation".
  • Breaking the Fellowship: Any time Kit or Nita are working alone, You just know something is going to go wrong.
  • Call on Me
  • 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."
    • Kit's TV gets alien cable he advises his parents to stay away from the cooking shows:
      Kit's Mum: "Are there Cooking channels?"
      Kit: "Oh yeah. On second thought, it might be smarter to avoid those. Some of them feature humans, Well, humanoids, anyway. But not as the cooks."
    • 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).
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • In the second book It turns out 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.
    • 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.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: The Crossings on Rirhath B is a facility akin to a air or bus terminal for worldgates.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Carmela's closet world gate.
    • Nita's space pen in book 1
    • Carmela's laser dissociator, an actual gun! First gotten in book 6, used in book 8.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: In Deep Wizardry, S'ree (a whale) becomes a Senior at a very young age because the Lone One arranged for her mentor to run afoul of whalers. 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.
  • Coincidence Magnet / Contrived Coincidence: An occupational hazard of being a wizard, and sometimes lampshaded: 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. In fact, when wizards start noticing coincidences swirling around them, they take it as a signal to start trying to figure out what the Powers are trying to tell them.
  • Comic-Book Time: No more than four years worth of story pass from the first book (published in 1983, the main characters are 13 and 12) 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.
  • 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 Filif (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.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? and Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: To be expected in a series where human teenagers fight Satan.
    • 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 its home dimension. It is pissed.
  • Digital Bikini: The Message in a Bottle from A Wizard of 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.
  • Disappeared Dad: Owl be Home for Christmas, set in December 2020, implies that Kit's Pop has recently passed.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Hoard: In the first book, Nita and Kit visit with a very old fireworm, also called a dragon. It was protecting its own collection of jewels, gold, and trash, but was extremely anxious as it was losing its memory and couldn't be sure if it lost anything. It was therefore extremely suspicious at seeing anyone, fearing they would steal from it.
  • Elemental Powers: In "A Wizard Abroad" the wizards have to assemble the Four Treasures of Ireland, which were identified with the four elements: Lia Fail—Earth; Spear Luin—Fire; the sword Fragrach—Air; Ardagh Chalice—Water. Together they could help defeat the Lone One.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name:
    • Nita really hates her middle name "Louise" for unstated reasons.
    • 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.
  • Exact Words:
    • Being that the Speech can alter reality, wizards learn to use language with precision.
    • When making a Deal with the Devil make sure you know the terms to a T.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The whole series and the point for the existence of wizards deal with this trope. The Lone Power invented entropy and while everyone acknowledges it will be the death of the universe, they also know that the point of wizards is to slow down entropy as much as possible.
    • Exists on both sides of the wizards vs Lone Power battles. The Lone Power, who exists outside of time, has already been redeemed, but its shadows still crop up. The wizards know that beating him in linear time won't make a knowable difference while the Lone Power knows it will ultimately lose and be redeemed. However, every small victory is still a victory.
  • Fantastic Racism: Briefly with the Mobiles. They felt that slowlife (biological life) was inferior to quicklife (computer life). Averted completely once Dairine shares the story of her life with them.
  • "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.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Worldgates are basically stargates. They come in wizard created versions and manually designed/natural phenomenon. Usually nearly instantaneous, when the distances are too large, it can cause nausiea and unconsciousness in humanoids.
  • 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.
  • Fire Is Masculine: Among human wizards, males have an affinity for fire and earth while females have an affinity for water and air.
  • 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.
  • Forever War: In the eighth book, the Yaldiv have been at war with each other for millions of years. They do all have an avatar of the devil within their souls, so that explains both why they want to wage war and why the war has never ended.
    • In the ninth book, the first war between Shemask and Eilith lasted for over 10,000 years. Not even sudden and extreme climate change or the destruction of their planet could stop the wars, though.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The Powers That Be are seen differently to each person based on what is comfortable to their minds.
    • In Wizards' Holiday, the alien visitors to Dairine's house must put on a disguise when going out lest people take issue with a large centipede and a walking tree.
  • Functional Magic: Wizards seem more like the IT staff and programmers of the universe than anything else. In Wizards at War, 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 main 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.
  • Genius Loci: First appears in High Wizardry, when Dairine stumbles across a planet whose surface is one big motherboard and manages to turn it into a sentient, wizardly supercomputer. In Games Wizards Play, it turns out this also happens closer to home; some planets in our solar system are sentient, and can project humanoid avatars for social occasions. In fact, Saturn and Jupiter are dating.
  • 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.
  • God Is Good: There are many benevolent entities among the Powers That Be, including The One. Aside from providing the power that makes wizardy work, The One is also working on a plan to redeem The Lone Power and bring it home.
  • Good is Not Nice: Used over and over again as regards the Powers That Be, especially the One's Champion. It's not so much that it isn't compassionate, but they see time on a very different level than humans, so they're OK with short-term sacrifices, or even wizards sacrificing their lives, if it leads to a greater victory.
  • 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 its 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!
    • In fact, it's a rule; someone has to sacrifice themselves to defeat the Lone Power, though sometimes the Lone Power doesn't have to be defeated, per se.
  • 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.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: the cats in the Feline Wizards series.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every book has Wizard or Wizardry as part of its title.
    • Most of the books also have thematic chapter titles.
      • Book 1: all chapters are as in the titular book within the book.
      • Book 2: all chapters have the word "song" as part of them.
      • Book 3: all chapters are computer terms.
      • Book 4: all chapters are written in Celtic, some of which have English as well.
      • Book 5: all chapters name days and times during the days (Tuesday Night; Late Tuesday Night. Wednesday Morning). The final chapter is simply Dawn.
      • Book 8: all chapters are military terms.
      • Book 9: most chapters are place names on Mars.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: "I'm a wizard, Sker'ret, not an engineer." Nita from book 8.
  • 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.
  • Inconvenient Summons: A crowning moment of funny in Book 2; the wizard called just barely avoided showing up naked!
  • 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, and because 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.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: In the sixth novel, A Wizard Alone, Nita, Kit and Ponchtravel into the mind of an autistic wizard.
  • The Joy of X: So You Want To Be A Wizard.
  • Killed Off for Real: Happens in more books than it doesn't, because defeating the Lone Power tends to involve a sacrifice.
  • Language of Magic: The Speech, which allows Rewriting Reality with it.
  • Language of Truth: The Speech. Even the Lone Power can't lie while using the Speech (though misleading someone, intentionally or otherwise, is entirely possible if you're not careful).
  • Little Miss Badass: Dairine and Nita both. Given how young wizards tend to be chosen, this trope is to be expected.
  • Long-Running Book Series
  • Mage in Manhattan
  • 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.
  • Magic Prerequisite: Only those specifically given Enacture (wizards) are capable of performing wizardry. Non-wizards, even entire species, can learn the Speech, but not do anything with it.
  • 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.
  • Magical Accessory: Nita's charm bracelet.
  • 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.
  • Mars Wants Chocolate: Some of the alien species in these novels fall under this trope.
    • in one book, Carmela uses a single chocolate bar to persuade an entire squad of alien mercenaries/hitmen to go somewhere else, and tell anyone who asks that the humans were never there in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Mental Fusion: Happens during group spellcasting.
  • 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.
  • Missed Him by That Much a major plot driver in Wizard's Dilemma and A Wizard of Mars
  • Missing Mom: Betty Callahan dies shortly after book five. The entire sixth book deals with the loss.
  • 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.
  • Neural Implanting: Combined with Brain Uploading in the third book.
  • New York Is Only Manhattan: Averted. The protagonists live in Nassau County, on Long Island, and the series consequently spends quite a bit of time there. The entire second book is set in The Hamptons. (That said, the main action of the first book does take place on a day trip to Manhattan.)
  • Noodle Incident: A bizarre verb-version of the trope: grenfelzing. It is known to be some kind of alien activity / pastime, but Kit's sister Carmela seems to be the only human character in the series who knows what it actually is. The author loves implying it is somehow sexual in nature, though the casual way in which Carmela treats the subject seems to contradict that.
    • It's kind of like emmfozing, but with chocolate. Recall that chocolate is something of a controlled substance, or at least a highly prized one, everywhere but Earth...
  • 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.
  • Official Couple: Nita and Kit, as of the end of A Wizard of Mars.
  • 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, and apparently, it's the only being ever who actually knows the meaning of life, so every Wizard that's ever lucky enough to meet it asks for the answer. Fanon says that it once answered '42' as a joke to a young Earth wizard named Douglas Adams.
  • One-Word Title: Theobroma, a book that involves chocolate, and "Theobroma" is the genus of the cocoa plant.
  • The Only One: Justified in that the wizards are only sent into situations for which they are singularly qualified to perform. This immediately implies that equally perilous and potentially world-ending events happen all the time, and all of those others are handled by all the other wizards.
    • The side story 'Lifeboats' was, according to its Afterword, written as a deliberate subversion of this trope; the main characters are part of a planetary evacuation effort with thousands of other wizards involved, and they all have more or less the same crucial but menial job of keeping their assigned evacuation portals working correctly.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: Filif's culture has a taboo about showing their roots. He has a haze around his when he moves so that none of the characters can see them. (For context: he's a sentient tree.)
  • Parental Substitute: Amusingly, Roshaun's father Nelaid has developed into something like this to Dairine by Games Wizards Play, though in addition to her actual father rather than instead of him. She (somewhat exasperatedly) refers to him as her 'space dad' at one point.
  • Place Beyond Time: Timeheart
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Reality-Writing Book: The Book of Night With Moon
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: The Lone Power loves to give these.
  • 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, crossing over with the "Cetacean Ops" easter egg in the Star Trek TNG technical manual... ). 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 reality changes to fit.
  • She's All Grown Up: Kit and Nita both realize this about each other in A Wizard of Mars.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: From book 2 onward other characters think that Kit and Nita must be having sex. Both Kit and Nita are at times annoyed at how often they have to deny this. It's also part of the reason Nita's parents send her to Ireland at the beginning of A Wizard Aboard, which Kit has to blushingly deny to Nita's aunt when he shows up there too.
  • Shout-Out: Sprinkled liberally throughout the series:
    • There is a guest appearance by the Peter Davison Doctor in the third book as a good Samaritan who helps Dairine in a moment of need.
    • The fifth book has a shout out to the fifth (and unreleased in English) season of Sailor Moon, in the form of a Fan Sub being watched by Kit's big sister. (This was confirmed by Word of God.)
    • A Wizard of Mars hangs many lampshades on classic science fiction involving the planet, including Edgar Rice Burroughs' works and The War of the Worlds. Nita even encounters Marvin the Martian.
    • Also in A Wizard of Mars, Ronan mentions hiding behind the couch at the scary parts of the science fiction show he watched as a child.
    • In A Wizard of Mars, Darryl mentions that he's eating Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, Calvin's favorite breakfast cereal (and the only one he'll eat).
    • Conversely, the series gets a shout-out in one of the author's Star Trek novels, where a cetacean scientist mentions the Song of the Twelve.
    • The end of A Wizard Abroad, with Tualha becoming Queen of the Cats and vanishing up the chimney, is a shout out to the old fairy tale King o' the Cats.
    • Star Wars is given a shout out in High Wizardry, although slightly incorrect as the author described it as from the future. That series was also given a small Shout-Out in Deep Wizardry as well with Dairine wearing Yoda pajamas and to Nita, punnily fulfilling a prediction of Peach's.
    • a blink-and-you'll-miss-it one in Wizard of Mars - Nita refers to a famous hydromage called Angelina Pellegrino.
  • Skinny Dipping: Hey, when transforming into whales, swim suits are useless.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": Fred the sentient white hole, Ed the Shark and Filif the tree-like alien.
  • Someone Has to Die: It is an established rule in the books that, to defeat the Lone Power, someone or something must die. Usually. Redeeming the Lone Power breaks this rule.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Theme Naming: Dairine had to resort to this when naming a thousand Mobiles. From US Presidents and UK monarchs, comic book, fantasy movie and literature characters to states and their capitals, she went through a lot of themes.
  • 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. (She can take the risk because the greeting is meaningless to anyone who either doesn't know about wizards or isn't a wizard.)
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: The Oath must be done without outside influence. This causes a problem in book 6
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • "Too Young to Die" Lamentation: The protagonist accidentally signs herself up for a Heroic Sacrifice and gets practically a whole page of quite lovely verse on the central dilemma: "Not old enough to love as yet, / But old enough to die indeed." Averted in the end when the guy who eventually performs the Heroic Sacrifice is really, really old - like just-out-of-the-Primordial-Slime old.
  • Twin Telepathy: Tuyet and Nguyet, fraternal twins.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Biddy not only was one of the Powers That Be, but also created the original Spear of Lugh thousands of years before. Guess who had to make it again?
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Subverted in Owl Be Home For Christmas, with a bit of Lampshade Hanging.
    Once everything’s planned out, once the master strategy’s in place, once the spell diagrams are laid down and triple-checked… good wizardry (once the spells’ execution is complete) can be boring.
  • 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.
  • Water Is Womanly: Among human wizards, females have an affinity for water (and air) while males have an affinity for fire and earth.
  • Webcomic Time: Time does pass in the series, with characters aging and maturing, but very slowly.
  • Weird Currency: Carmela uses a Valrhona chocolate bar to bribe the Tawalf into giving up the information Skerret needs. Chocolate is either a collectible or controlled substance and is very valuable outside of Earth.
  • 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.
  • Wonder Twin Powers: A Twichild (twin wizards—see Always Identical Twins above) can bounce a spell back and forth between the two so that its power can be increased up to a squaring of magnitude.
  • 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.
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Well, they do, but only for those granted Enacture by the Powers (i.e. wizards).
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: In "Wizards at War", Carmela bribes a group of aliens with chocolate bar knowing that off Earth, chocolate is a valuable substance as either an expensive delicacy or form of currency. By Games Wizards Play, she's looking into starting a chocolate export business.

Alternative Title(s): So You Want To Be A Wizard