Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Review - Ozma of Oz

Ozma of Oz – Frank L Baum         
           
Ozma of Oz marks the third entry in the Frank L Baum’s Oz series. The first book “The Wonderful wizard of Oz” pleasantly surprised me in how different it was to the well known film. It featured a number of great scenes but the writing was brief and was almost a list of events rather than a story (albeit a children’s story). The second entry, “the marvellous land of Oz,” was much more of a story. Focusing on characters and events and allowing them time to develop. I expected the third entry to improve on both.
The blurb:
When a storm blows Dorothy to the land of Ev where lunches grow on trees, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and Princess Ozma, and together they set out to free the Queen of Ev and her ten children.
Despite the title, this is really a story about Dorothy. It is told from her perspective as we catch up with her after her time spent in Oz. This time it is a storm whilst at sea not a tornado that transports her to the faraway magical land of Ev.
Dorothy is far more assured in this book. She is not afraid by storms and she is not surprised by anything she encounters. When the hen that travels with her in the storm begins speaking, she hardly reacts. This is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, it eliminates the need for Frank L Baum to repeat how strange and wonderful things are, but on the other when treated so matter of fact, it does reduce the impact.
The story of this book largely conforms to the “return to Oz” film that was made. I remember watching this film in the cinema with my Mum as a youngster (my sister went to see Licence to Kill and I was upset that I couldn’t join her) Still I recall being scared out of my wits by the Wheelers and Mombi.
Like the Wicked Witch of the West in the “Wonderful wizard of Oz” compared to the film both the Wheelers and Mombi have greatly reduced roles. They are also not nearly as intimidating.
That does not mean they are not enjoyable, it is just the focus of the plot is on the Nome King. Although the story is short, it is nice to see an Oz story centre around one specific event, namely the rescue of the queen and her children of Ev. The Nome king is arrogant, bullish and altogether not very pleasant. What’s more he does not think he is doing anything wrong by capturing people and transforming them into ornaments.  It makes him a good character as his reasoning is solid.
Frank L Baum brings back a host of familiar faces from the first two books (which includes the cowardly lion who was strangely omitted from the second book). He also introduces a host of new characters such as Tik-tok the first ever man-made army and the hungry tiger. Both are great additions and realised in a whimsical fashion that seems to be so effortless from Mr Baum. Special mention must be made to the Tin-mans army of Oz. Who do everything possible not to actually get involved in any conflict! They offer an understated comic outlet producing a wry smile whenever they are on the page.
There are some weaknesses. I am not so sure why the Scarecrow and Tin-man are written with such fondness and have progressed since their first adventure whilst the cowardly lion is mostly in the background and reverts back to his original scared form. I know these are children stories, but it did bother me.
Also Ozma is not very distinctive. Apart from her impressive entrance and handling of Mombi she is rather ineffective for a queen.
Those are just nit-picks though. I love reading these books - they offer a light hearted tale in between the dark, gritty books I normally read. This one matched my expectations.
My rating: 8.0