Written by: Danielle Paige
Book #1/3 of the Dorothy Must Die series
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary: I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling, and it’s all thanks to Dorothy. She found a way to come back to Oz, she seized power, and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I’ve been trained to fight. And I have a mission.
“I didn’t know what was worse: to have your shot and screw it up, or to never have had a shot in the first place.”
Review: This book is more similar to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series than the musical that was supposedly based off of it, and thank Oz. I used to have nightmares about the Tin Man when I was younger, and have always loved seeing Oz depicted as this dark, messed up place where magic gets twisted and bad intentions rule, because that’s what I saw it as when I was younger. Additionally, ever since I’ve grown up and become an adult, I’ve re-read the novel, understanding the allusions of each character and Oz as a whole, and it’s not supposed to be some perfect dandy land. Unlike Wicked and even Baum’s intentionally too bright Oz, however, Paige’s version is of a dying country being sucked of its life force, despite the best efforts of the rebellion to return it to its former glory. And just like Maguire, the Wicked ones are really the protagonists of the story.
At the forefront of the story is Amy Gumm, a Kansas girl with a dreary, boring life in American poverty who is transported to Oz one day in her trailer during a tornado. When she lands, she finds herself in a desolate Oz, not at all matching up to the stories we always heard when we were younger. She explores a bit, and runs into a few of Dorothy’s gang which, by the way, are the villains. It’s a wonderful twist, especially as Paige goes into details of each character’s affliction: the Lion’s feasting on others’ fear, the Tin Man’s utter lack of emotion spare his devotion to Dorothy, the Scarecrow’s sick and macabre hunger for knowledge and experimentations, and, most importantly, Dorothy’s need for power. Most of Oz has fallen before Dorothy, as she has kidnapped and essentially made a puppet out of Ozma, the right ruler of Oz who is now mentally incapacitated even though Dorothy herself is also crazy. The last line of resistance is the Order of Wicked, made up of characters new to the story that all bring their own little bit of spice to the story, and they end up recruiting Amy for their cause to help save Oz.
I actually thoroughly enjoy Amy as a main character, and as a heroine. She is definitely more than a little angsty, but she’s also insanely realistic. Although she comes from a crap hole in Kansas, the moment she sees the hell Oz is, she wants to go back. When she is first asked by the Order of the Wicked to be an assassin for them, she’s definitely skeptical and unwilling. Maybe it’s because we share a name, but I enjoy her humor, bravery, and even her vulnerabilities as seen by her concern for a largely absent mother and her care for her pet rat. Weirdly enough, she is one of the more relatable characters I’ve read in a YA novel. Beyond her, however, lies some more insanely complex characters I wish Paige told us more about and developed further – the only reason this book didn’t entirely cinch the deal for me. Ozma, Mombi, Glamora, Nox, even the Wizard… I wish that there was more about them, but they are characterized so well that I visualized them easily in my mind.
BUT THE VILLAINS, OH, THE VILLAINS. Dorothy is batshit crazy and a dictator to boot, and her craziness trickles down the chain of command. Glinda, her second, is basically the slave runner of Oz and apparently the Queen of plastic surgery as well, and as one of the most powerful witches, even her magic is getting sapped by Dorothy. Dorothy’s traveling companions from Baum’s novel are twisted beyond recognition, into feral and twisted versions, and Paige sends my hairs to stand on the end when she describes any of them. Beyond that, Dorothy’s directives and rule has sent the rest of the country into a state of depression, driving the flying monkeys to rip off their wings rather than serve her, Munchkins fleeing into the unknown wilderness to get away, and more. This is not an Oz I would want to live in, but WOW is it amazing to read about. Paige does an incredible job showing how much one person can influence those around them.
Overall, this book is one of the more entertaining books I’ve read in a good while. I’m a sucker for a new take on a well-known story, and although I get nervous at Oz reincarnations considering my life for Maguire’s Wicked, I was pleasantly surprised by Paige’s rendition. It was an easy read, with relatable vernacular and descriptive scenes without being too lengthy, and the dialogue definitely helped carry the plot smoothly throughout the book. The ending was a bit abrupt, but I know that a lot of the issue at hand will be resolved in subsequent books, which I look forward to picking up very soon in order to see what Amy will do and what Oz’s fate will be.
Magic can’t exist without goodness. Goodness can’t exist without wickedness. And Oz can’t exist without magic.”