I first encountered Duane’s wizards more or less by accident. I like cats, I like some fantasy, and when I was recommended Book of Night with Moon, it seemed like a good bet. It was. I enjoyed the cats, and the magic was pretty interesting, not falling into the “this is really a role playing system” trap at all. So I picked up the other Feline Wizards book and took home a bunch of the Young Wizards books, too. I’m also generally fond of young adult books, and had hopes that those would be equally interesting.
The Young Wizards books had interesting characters; I liked following Kit and Nita’s adventures, which are engaging and rather amusing as they deal with being teenagers and saving the world with a curfew. But, while the Feline Wizards books had a reasonably original take on the Enemy character, I found the portrayal of “the Lone Power” in the Young Wizards, a not-at-all-disguised Devil, to be disappointingly trite. The minions were often more interesting than their boss. The feline version of this recurring character was, at least, ambiguous, and was clearly a character that the felines interacted with in a varied manner, depending on the circumstances. The human version, by comparison, is rather flat and uninteresting, less a real character than a talking abstract idea. In general, I find that abstract evil only works as an Enemy if it is not personified in a single character.
I also thought, as I read further, that Duane should have stopped at four Young Wizards books, as it looked like she originally intended to. Dealing with the Ultimate Enemy in a conclusive fashion and then attempting to keep the story going with the same enemy is a recipe for eye-rolling, non-linear timestream or no. Another point in the Feline favor is that she does not seem to be making that mistake with them. The third book of that series appears to have a fresh, new Enemy.
That, however, brings us to my greatest problem with Duane, which is not an artistic criticism but rather a professional one.
Duane started writing her third Feline Wizards book, The Big Meow, as a subscriber-supported book. Her fans would donate to the project, and she would write it; she would post the chapters online as she went, and, at the end, everyone who donated a certain amount or above would receive a paper copy via a print-on-demand service.
Normally I would applaud this approach, and Duane’s readers certainly came through to support it, sometimes with pledges far in excess of the ‘base’ donation.
Duane, however, has not come through with the book.
This project has been plagued from the start with repeated, major delays. To be sure, Duane was dealing with some very bad Real Life problems during this time period, but the book is currently stalled at Chapter Seven, and has been for around nine months. Twice, Duane has promised that the next chapter will be forthcoming by a set date, and both times has failed to deliver, or explain her failure, or communicate in any way about the project for months on end. This while still blithely posting in her blog on other topics entirely and, therefore, clearly capable of communication.
Personally I find this an inexcusable breach of faith, and contract, with the readers who have already paid for a finished product. Let me repeat that: Duane has already taken their money. This is not an advance, backed by the working capital of a publishing company; this is money paid out directly by readers for a product which has not been delivered.
My recommendation, therefore, is to read Feline Wizards, but do not hold out any especial hope that a third book will ever appear. Most definitely, do not put any money into the third book until and unless it is actually finished.