Details: (c) 1983 Diane Duane; Pub Corgi 1991; ISBN 0-552-52645-2
Verdict: So you want to be a wizard is a polished and enjoyable children's fantasy.
Reasons for reading it: I'd heard good things about Diane Duane, so meant to pick up some of her stuff at some point.
How it came into my hands: cartesiandaemon lent it to me.
So you want to be a wizard is a really enjoyable story. It's not the most original theme in the world, with a couple of kids finding a magic book that leads them on adventures where they save the world from the powers of darkness. But it's a very sweet and successful example of what it is. The characters are sympathetic and believable, and the adventure is genuinely exciting and while you know the good guys will win in the end, there are plenty of unpredicted twists to get to that point. The danger feels real, which is helped because Duane has few scruples about killing major characters.
It's particularly successful as an imaginative piece. The sense of magic being magical, mysterious, powerful, operating according to its own rules, is much better than in many similar books. And I liked a lot of the ideas of the magical creatures, the magically animated vehicles particularly. The descriptions of Nina and Kit are casting their spells are really emotionally compelling.
It's very visible that Duane has read her CS Lewis (there's a scene almost directly out of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and some very Lewis-ish quasi, but not explicit, Christianity in the world building) her Tolkien (a dragon that is very much a response to Smaug) and her L'Engle (Fred the friendly white hole is almost pastiche). But the book feels like a homage rather than a rehashing, and might raise smiles from a reader who was familiar with the classics, or serve as an introduction for one who hadn't yet got to them. But definitely something that is likely to appeal to bookish kids overall.