Rest and relaxation--that's what Nita thinks she's going to get when she and her partner-wizard Kit go on a wizardly "cultural exchange" program. But nothing about wizardry--not even vacation--is ever quite that simple!
The other portion of the exchange program is that three aliens visit the Callahan household. Two of the aliens, Sker'ret, an insectoid, and Filif, a tree-like being, are friendly in their own way. The third alien, Roshaun, is humanoid and quite arrogant. Dairine quickly learns quite a lot from the first two aliens, but the third has her puzzled as she tries her best to make friends with him.
While things appear to be going smoothly, the wizards on earth and the wizards away on Alaalu each discover there are problems. The wizards on earth discover that the sun is sick, and that sickness is going to spill over onto planet earth, with catastrophic consequences. Quickly we learn why those particular four wizards were sent to visit the earth. On Alaalu, Kit and Nita feel as though something is not quite right with the planet. How can there be anything wrong with a planet that is nearly paradise? Kit and Nita discover the most insidious side-effect of a society without fear, including the fear of death. How can they help the residents of Alaalu escape from the stagnation that they chose millennia ago? Is it ethically right for Kit and Nita to change their world so much?
Diane Duane has seldom avoided deeply philosophical issues, but in this book she tackles an issue that has been discussed in many circles: What are the consequences of a perfect society? Further, if the perfect society caused the society to effectively stop evolving, should an outside agent "correct" the problem? What choice would a reader make? As Diane outlines the choices the reader discovers that the choice is not easy, regardless of how beneficial the outcome.
At some places this book is a little too philosophical, and this book is not light reading. The story is well-written and coherent, but may either bore some readers or lose others. However, I enjoyed this complex story and the arguments Diane puts forth to support her character's actions. A well crafted story.
This book relies on the reader knowing about Dairine, Kit and Nita. For the first time in reviewing this series I recommend reading all six previous book, "So You Want to Be a Wizard," "Deep Wizardry," "High Wizardry," "A Wizard Abroad," "A Wizard's Dilemma," and "A Wizard Alone." You may read this book without reading any of the prior books, but you will miss out the depth of the relationship that has developed between the three characters.
In this novel, Dairine applies to a wizard exchange program for Nita and herself without asking permission from anyone. After the dust settles, Dairine is restricted to the Solar System, but Nita, Kim and Ponch are going to Alaalu, a planet on the other side of the galactic core. Nita and Kit are each provided with an information packet, a "pup tent" and a subsidized mobile world-gate.
Since the pup tent is a claudication the size of Nita's bedroom, packing isn't the problem of having too little space, but rather one of taking too much. Nita packs her desk and all her swimsuits -- did I mention the beach -- and finally decides enough is enough; she can always return through the personal world-gate to get anything she missed. In fact, she will have to come back for sun block for she burns very easily and naturally all the sun block in the house is outdated.
Kit has the usual problem with his mother's over concern for his well-being, but the pup tent allows him to pack everything she suggests. Tom Swale modifies a cellphone for Nita's Dad so that he can call through her manual. Finally, everything is ready and Nita, Kit and Ponch leave, transiting first to Grand Central Terminal and taking a public world-gate from there to the Galactic worldgates at Crossings.
While Nita is away, her Dad and Dairine have three wizards from other worlds as house guests. Sker'ret is a metallic purple oversized centipede. Filif is a migratory tree. Roshaun is a very good looking humanoid. Dairine greets them as they arrive and immediately feels simpatico with Sker'ret and Filif, but Roshaun seems a bit arrogant and unfriendly.
This novel describes a holiday that soon resembles errantry. Alaalu is a close approximation of paradise, but Nita has a hunch that something is wrong. Quelt, the only wizard on Alaalu, also has feelings that she is missing something.
Meanwhile, back home, Dairine discovers that Sker'ret can eat canned foods, including the can, as well as jars, plates and silverware. Filif is very afraid of fire, but loves to root himself in the rhododendron bed. Roshaun is susceptible to Carmela's charms, but is still moody.
This story continues the tale of the maturating young wizards, particularly Dairine, dealing with the consequences of death and the other "gifts" of the Lone Power. This segment shows how yet another sentient species dealt with the Choice and the long-term -- 100,000 years -- results of that decision. Moreover, things at home start to heat up a bit while Nita and Kit are away.
Highly recommended for Duane fans and for anyone else who enjoys musing about evil, entropy and wizardry.
The time span between her last volume, WIZARD ALONE and WH is too short to expect much growth from the principal characters so instead we see others, before now seen in mostly supporting roles, begin to flesh out and come into their own. We also see a family still grieving over the lost of their beloved mother and wife begin the slow path to healing. Ms. Duane's entire handling of the death of Nita's mother has been nothing short of spectacular as she continues to explore this darker side of our existence.
For any young adult with interests in fiction, especially that which straddles the border between fantasy and science fiction, I give WIZARD'S HOLIDAY an unqualified HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Do be aware though, this is the seventh book in a series and the reading of the first six is, while not absolutely required, highly recommended.