The Fiery God of the Marrans, by Alexander Volkov, translated by Peter Blystone – The fourth book in the Russian Magic Land series is…well, busy. I think the translator was right when he said Volkov tried to pack too much into this one, which he presumably did because this was the last Magic Land book he intended to write (although he actually ended up writing two more). We have the return of Urfin Jus, the villain of the second book, and his attempt to once again take control of Magic Land. This time, he enlists the aid of the Marrans, Volkov’s version of the Hammer-Heads. Unlike their Baumian equivalents, the Marrans have arms, but are fierce fighters with a primitive society. As they don’t have knowledge of making fire, Urfin manages to convince them he’s a god by using a lighter, and organizes them into an army of conquest. We also have the first trip to Magic Land by Ellie’s sister Annie and her friend Tim O’Kelly, who reach the place on solar-powered robotic mules built by Alfred Canning from The Seven Underground Kings. I must say my suspension of disbelief is rather strained by this. If they’d be the work of fairyland inventors like Smith and Tinker, that would be one thing, but Fred is a farm boy from Iowa. Then there’s Strasheela’s inexplicable but successful plan to turn the Emerald City into an island, and the introduction of the giant eagle Carfax (which is now the name of a site for checking vehicle history, but I don’t think there’s any connection there). Urfin nurses Carfax back to health and tricks him into helping with his plan of conquest, but the eagle gets wise to the villain’s schemes and deserts him. Unfortunately, the only role he plays after that is to help Annie and Tim get into Magic Land. And really, the American visitors don’t play that much of a part either, as the people of Magic Land are able to successfully overthrow the Marran oppressors themselves, often offstage. It’s an interesting read, but could have benefited from a tighter plot. Then again, Magic Land is based on Oz, which is rarely known for its streamlined plots either.
By the way, does anyone know how “Marran” should be pronounced? Is the first A long or short?