Needs More Oz

Here are thoughts on a few of the Oz books I’ve recently read online:

The Silver Tower of Oz, by Margaret Baum – This author has admitted she’s not related to L. Frank Baum, although it’s been pretty well proven that people who WERE didn’t necessarily inherit any of his writing talent. With this, the main thing I wonder is why it’s even an Oz book. It takes place in Oz in the distant past, and the only character it has in common with the main series is Glinda, who I think might actually be the ancestor of the Glinda we know. There are also references to the Silver Shoes and the Love Magnet, although the origin story for the latter contradicts the canonical one. Otherwise, there’s so little of the Oz we know that I have to think Ms. Baum (despite her name) might have been better off making it a different fantasy land, perhaps with some links to Oz if she wanted them there. I also found there to be too many original characters who weren’t differentiated well enough. That’s not to say there weren’t some creative and fun ideas in the book, but it just didn’t feel like Oz.

Magician of Oz, by James C. Wallace II – This was another one where I felt the actual Oz content was somewhat marginal, although to a lesser degree than Silver Tower. At least this one had several of the characters from the original series, although I have to wonder about the treatment of some of them. The Wizard of Oz is apparently retired and has a great-grandson living in Indiana, and Glinda is a young girl for some reason. Mostly, though, I found this story to be way too full of in-jokes that Wallace’s family likely enjoyed, but that don’t do anything for me. I’m sure Jamie Diggs frequently shouting “Excelsior!” and being obsessed with potato soup have explanations, but they didn’t work for me as an outsider. Neither did the references to Indiana localities, and the story stays in Indiana for quite a while before finally reaching Oz. Jamie also picks up complicated magic way too quickly, presumably because he’s the Wizard’s descendant, except Oscar Diggs had to study for years to do any actual magic. I think it the book could have used some editing to make it appeal more to people who wouldn’t get the inside jokes, and maybe to harmonize a little better with the main series.

The Lights of Oz, by Joanna Payne – Of these three, this is the one that comes closest to being a traditional Oz book, but even it has some oddities. Part of the premise is that Ozma has forgotten her life as Tip, even though she and other characters tell the story many times in the main series. Payne does have a pretty good handle on the familiar characters, though, and there’s an exploration of Ozma coming to terms with her masculine side. She also fights with Glinda at one point, in a way that comes across as fairly believable. It’s not like Glinda hasn’t tried to make people forget painful memories before, as that’s basically what she does in the story of the Forbidden Fountain in Emerald City. There are also visits to several locations from Baum’s books, including the Truth Pond and the Invisible Country. The Land of Lumens is pretty similar to the briefly visited Land of Lanterns in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Yankee, but I don’t know whether this was coincidence or not. And hey, this one actually had illustrations!

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Characters, L. Frank Baum, Magic Items, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Needs More Oz

  1. Nice reviews! I felt the same about Margaret Baum’s first book (there’s now a sequel). She creates an interesting fantasy-land, but even though it’s set in the distant past, it doesn’t quite feel like it’s the predecessor of Oz. I also think the book would benefit from some tightening. She spends a lot of time with the protagonists–generally a good thing–but since large chunks of it are prosaic, it starts to feel long at times.

    The Lights of Oz I was enjoying until I had to stop to tend to other duties, so I’ll be revisiting that book. I liked Payne’s narrative style, and thought the Land of Lumens was intriguing and well-depicted.

  2. ozaline says:

    gah so I need to add yet another book to my “explorations of Ozma’s gender identity” collection. What a chore (though not an altogether unpleasant one).

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