By now we all know the story of Dorothy Gale and her wonderful adventure in Oz. Oz is one of those places that people lose themselves too. The movies, the books, the plays, the TV short movies… EVERYTHING Oz is magical.
Danielle Paige asks the question, What if Dorothy returned? What happens then?
The first book I really have read in 2016 answers that question.
The story isn’t about Dorothy, not really. Of course Dorothy is a important part of the story but this is someone else’s story.
This is the story of Amy Gumm.
The modern day Dorothy.
Amy started off as a very likeable character. Her father left her when she was young, she had no friends but one bitch of a enemy since just before she turned nine and her mother became addicted to pills. She lived in a trailer in Kansas just trying to survive, dreaming of something better. You understand her angry, the lost feeling and the need for something to change for her. When she is whisked away by a Tornado to Oz you feel for her in many different ways. Yes you know that Oz is magical, even if it isn’t the Oz we’ve all read about, and you know that this is going to be the start of Amy BECOMING Amy, but it also felt more like her real life problems were just being pushed to the side. We all know that Dorothy went home after her adventures so giving a girl who had nothing all the magical adventure she could handle before sending her home seemed kind of cruel.
Oz isn’t the same though. Plus Amy’s magical adventure will be nothing like Dorothy’s and to be fair is coming from a completely different and sceptical point of view.
It was a gripping story from beginning to end. I felt like BEGGING for more answers, just as Amy was, but by the half way point Amy stopped asking REAL questions, she stopped asking about WHAT and WHERE and HOW and started getting angry. That was when, for me, she became less likeable. When she started getting answers to questions she was always asking the wrong kind and then getting angry that people didn’t just sit down and give her the whole history of Oz, its people and Dorothy.
There was also some giant leaps of forgetfulness on her behalf. With the talk of mobile phones and all this kind of stuff I’d got the impression that she lived in a pretty modern world and she was able to figure out that she was being sent in to be a spy in the palace. Yet the second things got tough for her, and she inevitably made them worse, she started sulking about being left on her own…. Even though she knew she was a spy!
I guess the beauty of it was that even when I disliked her and her attitude she never thought she was right to be that way. There are many moments in the story where she realises she messes up, heck there are loads of times she realises it, gets angry, and messes up again! The story never makes it so that she’s always right, the story always reminds us and her that she’s human. That was what I loved. You don’t have to like a character to understand them and the one thing working in Amy’s advantage is you just can’t help but understand her.
Whilst we don’t get a single final answer to any of the questions you want to know (why is Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz? Why are all of them suddenly evil? What the hell is going on?!) there is enough in there OTHER THEN THOSE QUESTIONS to make you want to dwelve right into Paige’s own universe of Oz. The characters are just so dark and creepy, we haven’t really seen the evil of the Scarecrow but just the description and the things he’s doing makes you want to know more. The Order of the Wicked, Glinda, Dorothy, Ozma… All the characters were brought to life and its just not enough. Thankfully I brought both the first book AND “Stories” which brings together the three short prequel stories telling us how Dorothy and the Wizard came back at the same time therefore was able to run straight to “Stories” and carry on reading.
The book took me three or four days to read sporadically. I’d say you’d be able to finish it in two if you didn’t have anything else to do. I read it whilst watching stuff, trying my hardest to put the book down to get other things done. Its why I’ve been so quiet online at the end of the week because I just kept wanting to pick it up. Its well written and moves at a hectic pace. By about chapter 9 I wandered how the book could be so long as it felt like it was coming to some kind of ending, by chapter 30 I didn’t want Dorothy to die quite so early and by the end I was on Amazon buying the second book and getting excited that a THIRD book and another set of short stories are coming out in the next month or so.
My only two true problems were firstly that everyone CONSTANTLY shrugged. Everyone. Witches, Munchkins, Flying Monkeys and I even think Dorothy did once, though it might have been too much effort for her. That in and of itself wasn’t a problem as no doubt every living thing shrugs but it became the answer to too many questions and the go to motion for EVERYTHING. The fact that I’m telling you that it was a problem for me shows that there was just too much shrugging. Gert, a Good Witch turned Wicked, who was meant to be a lovely grandmotherly happy type just didn’t seem like a natural shrugger yet Amy was met at every corner with people shrugging. It felt a little lazy, like instead of coming up with a way to move the conversation on or stop Amy every character had to give in and just non-committally shrug Amy away.
The second was how easy Amy decided she fancied someone. Three boys her own age were in the book. First off back in Kansas there was Duncan who she didn’t fancy, or did she, or didn’t she? He is kind of cute up close. Then she landed to find Pete who had beautiful eyes and saved her and was lovely but did she like him or didn’t she. Finally there was Nox who was a bastard but up close smelled so nice and was so beautiful and so stern and ohhhh he kissed her and blah blah blah. Thankfully Duncan and Pete are no more a problem but hell was she starved to find herself a boyfriend whilst telling herself she didn’t want one. I don’t know but I just kind of wanted that side of it to not come into play as Amy was a interesting enough character without that kind of thing.
They were the only two problems though.
The story was one more of morals then anything else. It had a strong argument running through it of the blurring of lines between Good and Wicked, Right and Wrong and so on. Amy never listened so it could get a bit tedious at times but you had the story in front of you to be able to make your own mind up.
For example Nox lost his family at a young age, he doesn’t know his name so the Wicked Witch Mombi who took him in named him Nox. They pretty much admit to making him a warrior against Dorothy, training him in magic and giving him a purpose. You see the world around them and the terror and pain that Dorothy causes and it is 100% correct that Amy challenge this idea that the ONLY way is to kill someone. In fact I applaud Paige for being brave enough not to turn her main character into a cruel killing machine for no reason, it is a breath of fresh air hearing a character SCARED to do battle, SCARED to kill someone and wondering if Dorothy was a good person once maybe JUST MAYBE killing in the name of “what is right” might have made her who she is. At the same time she also listens to Nox but doesn’t take in what he’s saying. The story gives small reasons for Amy to THINK about how Nox and the other kids left behind will feel. Her first real friend in Oz, Indigo (the Goth Munchkin) was killed in front of her in the most gruesome way UNFAIRLY, she’s seen what happens to the magic flying Monkeys and the pains they have to go through to survive and then Gert died saving Nox. She’s seen the slavery, the giant holes left behind and seen Oz dying but it never feels like she truly digests it all and THINKS about how the people feel.
Whilst we see it and struggle knowing that killing is wrong and looking at a bigger picture Amy see’s the bigger picture then blocks it out. I’m hoping this is something that gets explored in the series as its such a interesting way to do it. In tales like this and the Narnia books, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and just about anything else the lead character just goes along and does it. Good/evil they are two separate things with no line in the middle so there are no questions to ask. You do the GOOD and defeat the EVIL. Amy doesn’t have it that way and she doesn’t THINK of it that way. She’s seen what the GOOD guys are doing and she’s seen the WICKED people SAVING people and she’s questioning what is good and wicked and whether it even matters. She does what is RIGHT. She’s also found out the hard way that doing the RIGHT thing will most certainly end with something bad happening elsewhere. Its the strongest message in the book and I hope it doesn’t get lost.
Would I recommend this book?
Amy is a great lead character, its the perfect book for young teenage girls to read who are sick to the back teeth of the boys always having the interesting adventures and when the girls get to have a go they have to be sweet and innocent all the time. Amy is much more like a normal modern girl.
The way it is written is exciting, mysterious and yet so engaging you won’t want to put the book down.
I am a gamer as well as a book worm and the imagery used reminded me a lot of the game Toonstruck. If you haven’t played that game it was a brilliant one starring (literally) Christopher Lloyd who was sucked into a cartoon world he created as some evil force turned everything dark and gloomy, all the nice sweet characters being turned into evil ones. As a kid it worked, as a adult it worked better because you get the jokes. Dorothy Must Die does it similarly. For kids or teenagers the imagery will scare them but they might not take in the true horror of it like adults will. What happened to Jellia for example might scare my niece but until she’s older and understands the words used to describe it the true horror of what happened won’t hit her.
I don’t think I can even tell you how much I adored the book because it was just so good. Go. Read.