So much of this is 4-star worthy but there are a few things that knocked off a half-star for me.
For the majority of the Young Wizards series, Nita, Dairine and Kit have been running from one crisis to another, doing what they could to slow down entropy and defeat the Lone Power. But as they're growing up, they're realizing that things aren't so black and white, and that there are multiple, subtle ways for the LP to work and some of those ways are their in their own doubts, insecurities and assumptions. Kit and Nita are also still adapting to the change in their relationship now that they're officially a couple.
Nita, Kit and Dairine have been asked to serve as mentors in the Wizard Invitational, an event that happens once every eleven years where young and upcoming wizards get to display their talents and wizardries in what is basically a worldwide wizard science fair. Dairine's and Nita and Kit's mentees prove challenging in their own ways. Mehrnaz is sweet and full of enthusiasm but has some deep-rooted doubts due to her family situation. Penn is an entitled, sexist assmonkey who things he's God's gift to wizardry but he also has something going on deep down.
It's rare in this series to see wizards who are less then professional and who aren't first and foremost concerned with saving the universe. It's actually one of the things that niggled me in the previous books. How is it possible that every single wizard in existence is so great and wonderful? Well, they're not, as it turns out. It was great to see Dairine rise to the challenge with her mentee, and she delivers some brilliant and much-earned verbal smackdowns throughout the course of this book.
I wish Nita and Kit had taken some notes from her, because they are not as forthcoming or direct with Penn when he's being a jerk (which, admittedly, is not a small portion of the time), and that was just one of things that made this less than 4-stars for me. Nita and Kit spend a lot of time complaining about Penn's behavior but not much time actually confronting him about it. True, it's not their job to teach him social skills or explain why misogyny is bad. If this was someone they were only working with on a one-time mission, that would be one thing, but they have to work with him for three solid weeks under some pretty intense circumstances. That's a long time to put up with his level of obnoxiousness without at least once telling him what is and is not acceptable behavior to them. When they do attempt it, it's not in a way that's going to get their point across.
The other thing that bugged me was that during Interim Errantry (which was written after this book) Kit and Nita seemed to be doing rather well adjusting to their budding romance and figuring out what the new boundaries are in regards to that. Here, they appear to have taken several steps back, and again, not once did they actually sit down and talk about any of it. If they were your ordinary teenagers, I might be willing to give them a pass, but they've proven more than capable of discussing plenty of dicey and awkward topics in the past. You're friends - TALK TO EACH OTHER!
Still, there is plenty to adore about this book too. Duane's always been very inclusive in representation in her books, but up to now most of the gender fluidity and sexually fluidity has been reserved for alien species. Now we finally get some human characters declaring themselves LGBT and it's great. (Still no in-book confirmation on Tom and Carl though, but I still maintain they're a couple.) Nelaid, Roshaun's father and the one who has been teaching Dairine how to manipulate sun energy after Roshaun's strange disappearance at the end of Wizards At War, and her dad Harry have the most beautiful and epic bromance ever in this book and it's a treat to watch. They really have become a found-family in the most amazing of ways. (And let's face it, Harry needs all the help he can get with Dairine.) Also, the two other Planetaries we meet here are a hoot, and Nita's prophetic dreams are getting more and more interesting. I figured out what they were trying to tell her by the second dream, but it was still neat to see her and Dairine put the pieces together in the final chapter.
ROSHAUN!!!!!!! HE'S BACK!!! <3
The ending got rather rushed, unfortunately, and I really wouldn't have minded seeing more time given between the semi-finals and the finals. And the climax on the moon was both epic and head-scratching.
Penn's been carrying around a piece of the sun - that for some reason identifies as female even though its basically hydrogen atoms - and he's suddenly able to realize he's been an asshole this whole time. Okay, having a sunspot crammed inside your noggin can make you act up, I suppose. We certainly saw Ronan getting extra cranky (more than his usual) when he had Michael riding shotgun inside him. But as was pointed out, the sunspot still needed something to root onto to get those behaviors intensified, so it's not entirely giving Penn an "out" for his extremely rude behavior.
It could have been better paced, and as long as these books are there's no reason why it needed to be so truncated in the last quarter of the book when the rest of it was willing to let the story breathe and the characters drive the action. It was a jarring transition to go from this detailed meandering story to such a quick-paced conclusion.