Anyone who loved the "Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz" movie must read "Dorothy Must Die." And those who have read many of Frank L. Baum's "Oz" books? Do not miss this! Author Danielle Paige creates an alternate Dorothy, Amy Gumm, who also hails from Kansas.
Amy also arrives at Oz in her home via a tornado. But the similarities end there. Amy doesn't have a loving Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, although she does have her mother's pet rat Star. Her mother is raising her alone after Amy's dad leaves. One car accident later, her mother is hooked on prescription medication and isn't able to do much mothering.
When Amy arrives in Oz, it's a much different Oz than the one in the movie. It's grey and grim. It's dark and dusty. It's a very scary place. And she quickly learns that Dorothy is responsible for the changes, and Dorothy and her henchmen, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion and even Glinda, the "good" witch, help her keep Oz in virtual lockdown. All magic belongs to Dorothy.
Amy also quickly learns that "good" is relative in Oz. It's the "wicked" witches who are trying to free the extremely oppressed people. The irony is pervasive. At one point, after a gruesome killing, Dorothy tells those in attendance, "In Dorothy's Oz, there is no room for the Wicked."
Paige brilliantly uses the characters from the original Baum books and infuses them with feelings and issues that are as touching and horrifying as the whole book is. For example, the flying monkeys have been made into slaves of Dorothy. They learn that if they cut off their wings, they are not subject to the magic that makes them slaves. So some of them rebel and cut off their wings.
The Nome King makes an appearance, as do Scraps the Patchwork Girl, Toto, Cayke the Cookie Cook, Polychrome the daughter of the Rainbow, and of course, the Wizard.
What Amy is told over and over again by almost everyone in the book is not to trust anyone. Even the person telling her that. But like any great protagonist, Amy must make up her own mind. And she must do what she believes is right. And that becomes Amy's strength -- doing what she feels she must, in spite of what others have told her she must do.
The witches who save her from the Scarecrow's prison (it's a fate worse than death) tell her that she is the one who must kill Dorothy. They train her and show her how to use magic. Amy makes allies along the way and even Star helps out. Disappointingly (or maybe not, let the adventure continue), it's the first book in a series.
Readers will be hooked on the characters, the horror (and there is plenty of that), and the magic. There's humor aplenty, too, which makes the reading both fascinating and fun. It's a hard book to put down, all 452 pages (in the advance reading copy).
Why five stars? I read almost all of Baum's "Oz" books and love this horrifying sequel. It's the grown-up version of my favorite childhood series. Thank you, Danielle Paige. I can hardly wait for the next book.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader's copy provided by the publisher, HARPER, for review purposes.
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