Two more Oz book reviews for you lucky readers today. Yes, I’m kind of surprised that there are still some I hadn’t yet read, too.
The Tales of Yot, by Adam Nicolai – A collection of three short stories that spin off from elements in these Oz books: Ruth Plumly Thompson’s The Silver Princess in Oz, and Jack Snow’s The Magical Mimics in Oz and The Shaggy Man of Oz. The style is quite different from traditional Oz stories, and it’s often pretty confusing as to just what is going on, but I’m willing to give some leeway when it comes to working with more obscure characters from the lesser known Oz books. The first one, “Gludwig and the Red Hair,” addresses the issue of the Red Jinn keeping black slaves, taking a similar approach to Carrie Bailey’s Bungle in making them created beings. The red wig Gludwig is wearing when he launches his coup d’etat is also explained as some kind of parasitic life form. The second story is “Tote’s Blemished Blossom,” and stars a deformed pine creation of Princess Ozana’s who discovers a mysterious plant called Yottabecquerel (Yot for short, hence the title of the collection) and becomes obsessed with hearing what it has to say. A traveling salesman provides some comic relief with his amusing wordplay. Finally, “Ruprecht the Castaway King” is about a beaver who is forced out of his homeland but comes to gain magical powers and new subjects. Some of the characters from the second story reappear in this one. I do have to wonder that, if Ruprecht is the Fairy Beaver King as this tale seems to imply, how it links in with the character’s introduction in John Dough and the Cherub. Hopefully some of the issues will be dealt with in Nicolai’s forthcoming follow-up novel, Asper and the Unheard Heroes in Oz. This book was apparently slated for a release last year, but has been delayed.
The Magic Ruby of Oz, by Julia Inglis – I don’t know the author of this book personally, but when I first joined the International Wizard of Oz Club, she ran a pen pal service for young Oz fans in which I participated. The correspondence I had kind of fizzled out, but it was still a good idea. Magic Ruby was obviously written by a young author, but it’s certainly not bad, just something that could have used more editing. The plot is one we’ve seen before, with a pair of evil magicians trying to conquer Oz by stealing all the most powerful magic and enchanting Glinda and her palace. Mind you, part of why this is necessary is L. Frank Baum’s own fault, since he established Oz pretty early on as a place where a villain has to somehow overcome a whole lot of almost limitless magic in order to be taken seriously as a threat. There are many nods to the original books, including references to the Kingdom of Ragbad, Wam, and the Wizard of Wutz. Indeed, the name-dropping is perhaps a bit overdone, a complaint Jared Davis had in his review. Inglis’ own creations, including a word merchant (shades of The Phantom Tollbooth) who rides a Speed Reader and an ice cream dragon, fit quite naturally into Oz. I remember reading that Inglis’ intention in writing this was partially to show the characters solving problems without magic, but as it is they succeed mostly by stumbling on some previously unknown magic by coincidence. Not that this is at all atypical for Oz stories, but it probably could have been done somewhat more neatly.