Thursday, May 07, 2015

What We're Reading: Oz Series

Last year, author Danielle Paige took readers to the dark side of the rainbow in Dorothy Must Die, a reimagining of the settings and characters from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz where nothing is as we remember it, Dorothy has gone to “the dark side” and, as the title states, must die to return Oz to its former glory.

Her potential assassin is Amy Gumm, another girl from Kansas who was also brought to Oz via tornado. But Amy’s experiences in Oz have been markedly different from Dorothy’s: Amy’s mobile home landed on the precipice of a bottomless chasm that she narrowly escaped falling into along with her home; she watched Glinda act as task-master over a group of Munchkin slaves before she was arrested by the Tin Woodman and his cyborg henchmen (created in the Scarecrow’s laboratory of horrors) and then thrown into prison before being recruited by the Royal Order of the Wicked to assassinate Dorothy. Yes, Amy knows she’s not in Kansas anymore either!

At the end of Dorothy Must Die, Amy has the chance to take Dorothy out, but fails. Her attack starts a battle that spreads throughout the Emerald City. Amy is rescued, but she is also separated from the rest of the Order. Dorothy has disappeared, and no one knows where she’s gone. Alone in an unfamiliar and unquestionably strange land, Amy must recuperate while still moving toward the restoration of Oz. She must also be cautious, because in attempting to complete her mission, Amy may have tapped into something dark and powerful. It may help her, but, as is always true with magic, there will be a price. Is Amy prepared to become truly wicked?

In The Wicked Will Rise, Danielle Paige further develops characters introduced in the first book while pulling in additional re-imagined ones from Baum’s original novels. The plot thickens as it becomes clear that killing Dorothy will not be as easy as dropping a house on her or drenching her with a bucket of water. And the last few chapters of the book raise the stakes beyond the land of Oz.

Most compelling is the exploration of the idea of what actually makes someone wicked, which began in the first book and is developed further in this one. Finally, this series is just a great deal of fun to read, as Paige puts her twisted spin on familiar tropes. The Wicked Will Rise is a marvelous follow-up to last year’s Dorothy Must Die, and--lucky for us--the series will continue in a third book (for which there isn’t currently a title or  release date).

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