Young Wizards Kit Rodriguez and Nita Callahan become part of an elite team investigating the mysterious, long-sought 'message in the bottle' that holds to the first clues to the long-lost inhabitants of Mars. But not even wizardry is enough to cope with the strange events that start to unfold when the 'bottle' is uncorked and life emerges once more to shake the Red Planet with its own perilous and baffling brand of magic.
The good news is that the Martians seem friendly. The bad news is that now they're free to pick up where they left off on a long-dormant plan that can change the shape of more than one world... and they don't mind using their well-intentioned rescuers to achieve their goals. Kit's long-standing fascination with all things Martian unexpectedly enmeshes him in a terrible, age-old conflict—turning him into both a possible key to its solution, and a tool that in the wrong hands shortly threatens the whole human race.
Only Kit has a shot of defusing the threat. But when he vanishes unexpectedly from Mars of here and now, his fellow wizards are left uncertain of where his true loyalties lie. Nita's determination to find the truth - and Kit - soon sends her into a battle against an implacable enemy who may not be conquerable except by violating wizardry's most basic tenets. As the shadow of interplanetary war stretches ever more darkly over both worlds, Kit and Nita must fight to understand and master the strange and ancient synergy binding them to Mars and its last inhabitants... or the history that left Mars lifeless will repeat itself on Earth.
Juanita Louise Callahan Juanita "Nita" Louise Callahan is an experienced wizard of around fourteen or fifteen. She is still able to work with living things, but her powers are now developing more towards the oracular bend. She has a lot on her shoulders, having to deal with grief after her mother's and Ponch's death, as well as her sister Dairine, who, after the loss of Roshaun is behaving oddly as well as being sullen and unresponsive—and Carmela is taunting her about her middle name as well, which she hates, though it gives no reason why. She was initially uninterested in the "Martian thing," but gets caught up in it quickly as Carmela uncovers an ancient prophecy and Kit starts acting strangely and then disappears completely. She has several spectacular moments and has to make the most "active" choices and possibly has the most "fighting" role in the book, as Kit makes choices of the same importance but his are more passive. She starts to have feelings toward Kit, though she has no "soppy" moments. She develops an elemental affinity with water, which proves important later, along with her friendship with the whale wizard S'ree, and uses the Gibraltar Passthrough (a powerful wizardry developed by the hydromage Angelina Pellegrino) to save her life, along with several other wizardries, though they cost her vast amounts of energy and power. She duels Aurilelde in what is supposed to be to the death, but after defeating her thoroughly, breaks the prophecy which said "She will slay her rival."
Christopher Rodriguez Christopher "Kit" Rodriguez is, throughout the book, obsessed with Mars and all things Martian. After messing things up a bit too much and getting himself stuck in an ancient version of Mars—and inside the Martian wizard Khretef—he is faced with a difficult decision, which will affect the course of life in the entire solar system: will he save Earth or will he save Mars? At home, his sister Helena has arrived, which makes for a hard time dealing with her wild theories about him and his wizardry. Later in the book he starts to develop feelings toward Nita, though these are continually being overshadowed by those of a certain Martian princess...at the end of the book, these feelings toward Aurilelde are overcome when Nita refers to Kit as her boyfriend, and he tells her that it took her long enough.
Mamvish fsh Wimsih fsh Mentaff Mamvish is a Species Archivist, who relocates species that are in trouble to safer places. She has incredibly high power levels, and is an Abstainee, which means that the Lone Power literally "took a vacation" on her Ordeal. (Apparently the LP left a note for her saying that he had a headache and couldn't come!) She has a fierce love for tomatoes and is highly sensitive, and has a high vocabulary of insults in the Speech. She looks pretty much like a dinosaur and when she does wizardry, Speech-words can be seen under her skin.
Irina Mladen Irina Mladen, Planetary Wizard for Earth, is described as a young, slim housewife in her thirties, with shaggy, highlighted blond hair, preferring to travel with a parakeet on her head and a baby in a sling. Though she may look like a regular housekeeper (which she technically is... only she has to take care of Earth, not just a house!) this is one lady you do not want to cross...
Carmela Emeda Rodriguez Carmela is a key character in this book, though not a wizard. Ignoring Kit's reluctance to allow her on the trip, she travels with Nita and S'ree and manages to decode an ancient prophecy using her strange gift with languages. She shows no further sign of becoming a wizard, and claims that she's simply training to be a "galactic personal shopper." She also shows interest in Ronan, which he does not reciprocate. She has been amply repaid for the service she did in Wizards At War, by being allowed on a nearly endless shopping spree at the Crossings on Rirhath B. She lives for annoying her little brother, and now that Helena is back, it is so much easier! She also loves to tease Nita by calling her "Juanita LOUISE," since Nita hates her middle name. Carmela's own middle name, now, has an interesting history. Her aunts and uncles fought so much over what her middle name would be that Carmela's mother decided to take their first initials and make a new name out of them.
Helena Rodriguez We are newly introduced to Helena in this book. She has seemingly gotten over the stage of thinking Kit has had a deal with the devil, but has some odd theories of her own now. Hint: Mutants! She says also near the end of the book, "Wouldn't it be great if there really was this interplanetary brotherhood with all kinds of creatures, you know, banding together and using their powers to fight evil..." Not knowing, of course, how right she was!
Ronan Nolan Ronan, in this book, along with Darryl, travels with Kit and experiences his own bizarre version of Mars in his imagination. He offers a kind of support for Kit, along with being comic relief. There is no tension at all between him and Nita at this point, though there is also little contact between them in the book.
Darryl Darryl travels along with Ronan and Kit and has his turn experiencing the Mars of his mind, a strange and silly remake of a movie he watched as a child. He offers comic relief and there are several references to how much he eats. Him being an abdal makes Nita nervous about him being off-planet, but everything works out.
S'reee S'reee travels with Nita and Carmela to Mars. She is ultimately the reason Nita is able to save her own life later in the book: She discusses the possibility that Nita has an elemental affinity with water, and tells her about Angelina Pellegrino, the last great hydromage, who designed the dangerous and powerful Gibraltar Passthrough, used to move and manipulate large quantities of water under precise control. S'reee is familiar with this, and while discussing with Nita ways to stop the threat of still-hazardous underwater mines safe, tells her also about the uses of the Gibraltar Passthrough and about Pellegrino.
Dairine Callahan Not as major or involved as the others, she is shown to be noticeably weakened in her power levels, but still defiantly working to find and save her friend Roshaun. She spends most of her time on Wellakh, learning to control stars, and confused about Roshaun's status; it doesn't even say "recall," (basically 'deceased,'); his physical status is just a blank space. She looks at this as a possibility of finding him and continues to work towards that, without showing much concern toward her Earth family and spending more time with Roshaun's father, Nelaid, who is teaching her stellar wizardry. The possibility that she is taransh'laev' suggesting that she is deep-down Wellakhit, not human.
Bobo/The Peridexis/Peridexic Effect The peridexic effect, or "Bobo," is becoming more and more major, displaying personality and helping Nita out with bigger spells. He (he doesn't really have a gender but is called 'he') manages to lay out the diagram for the Gibraltar Passthrough that Nita has to use and fuel with her own life-energy. He still does not speak to anyone but Nita, and how he is even able to do that is unknown to anyone.
Tom Swale, Carl Romeo Neither have very major roles, but Kit is 'grounded' by them for being irresponsible and careless on Mars.
Aurilelde Aurilelde is a Martian princess, not a wizard, but a seer, which corresponds with Nita's oracular gift. She is sincerely trying to save her people, but fear has driven her mind to the point of destroying Earth and the solar system to get what she wants. She "falls in love" with Kit, thinking that he is her old flame, Khretef, which becomes one reason she and Nita duel. She thinks the whole reason Nita is mad at her is because of Kit, but later understands why Nita is angered. She takes Mars's kernel into herself, essentially becoming Mars and almost destroying herself and everyone else in her fury, "not a god of war, but a goddess, and a goddess scorned." She tries to kill Nita by dumping tons and tons of water on her, but Nita successfully uses the Gibraltar Passthrough and then duels Aurilelde and defeats her.
Khretef Khretef, the Martian wizard, is trying desperately to save his people and ensnares Kit into the plot. When Kit tries to explain the flaw to him and explains that Aurilelde has tricked him, he finally gives in, but it's almost too late, until Nita comes to the rescue. Khretef's gift with machinery corresponds with Kit's same ability(supposed to have been from somewhere else) is briefly touched upon.
Rorsik Rorsik, a Martian in a position of power behind the leader, Iskard. He has instilled fear into all the others and convinced Iskard into convincing Aurilelde into trying to kill Nita and wipe out life on Earth to make way for the Martians. It is said by Kit that he's either gotten past of his fear or has found himself in a patch of eternity to be scared in.
Iskard The Martian leader, weakened and subject to Rorsik's persuasion. He is also Aurilelde's father.
Ponch Though not a major character in this, he is mentioned as a "great Presence" and speaks through a giant scorpionlike creature saying, "Earth dogs aren't the only dogs, you know." Using Ponch's leash, Kit, Nita, Irina, and Mamvish were able to 'save' the Martians.
Peach Mentioned, though not appearing physically. Peach's long-ago prophecy of "Fear death by water" comes true once again for Nita in this book. Apparently prophecies can be good more than once, though, Nita laments, there is no sell-by date on any of them, so you can't tell if they necessarily will.
The old Mars prophecy is discovered / decoded by Carmela after Nita, Carmela, and S'reee when Carmela makes them (Nita & S'ree) to go to Mars to crash Kit's male bonding trip with Ronan and Darryl which they ride about the Martians' history, and Carmela studying and working out what most of it meant. The prophecy is said to named as 'the Red Rede' and is in a form of a poem :
The one departed | is the one who returns
From the straitened circle | and the shortened night,
When the blue star rises | and the water burns:
Then the word long-lost | comes again to light
To be spoke by the watcher | who silent yearns
For the lost one found. Yet to wreak aright,
She must slay her rival | and the First World spurn
Lest the one departed | no more return.