I’m going to make a really weird analogy with Ozma of Oz, the third in L. Frank Baum’s beloved Oz series from the early twentieth century: Ozma of Oz is to The Wizard of Oz as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is to A Nightmare on Elm Street. The original is the supreme classic, one that can never be topped. The first sequel lost its way a little bit, mainly because the heroine was nowhere to be found.
And the third brings the series back to its roots, offering a non-perfect but superbly fun adventure that brings back everything we loved about the original but offers up a few new tricks. I’m sure no one ever thought Wes Craven and L. Frank Baum would ever be mentioned in the same sentence… but they have now!
Ozma of Oz is a total blast, and what feels like the first “true” sequel to the original. True, because Dorothy, whose presence was missed in The Marvelous Land of Oz, is back in the forefront, meeting up with her old pals The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, as well as some new faces, like Tik-Tok and Billina. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the plot of Book 3, but it’s a rousing adventure, in which Dorothy and her clan of misfits have to stop an evil king from turning all of his prisoners into ornaments.
This mostly heinous and deadly serious Nome King is a solid Oz villain, one who offers more fear and dread than the Wicked Witch of the West ever did in the first book. And Ozma herself, who gives the book its title but works alongside Dorothy as an equal, makes for a fantastic addition to the text. Tik-Tok is also a lot of fun, too, and Billina, this witty, talking hen, provides the comic relief.
The Marvelous Land of Oz was fun but something was definitely missing, and that something was Dorothy. Baum says in his foreword that thousands of kids wrote to him to pen another Oz book, but to please, please, please bring Dorothy back. So Baum gave the kids what they wanted, and he gave us all of us another gem in his canon. Sure, it’s a little difficult to get past all those adverbs — Baum loves them even more than J.K. Rowling — but that’s part of the fun of reading an older book like this.
I have a feeling the later Oz books might get a little tiresome, but this third entry in the series was just as much fun as the first book. It’s not a story that necessarily made a better transition to the big screen (the maligned 1985 sequel Return to Oz is mostly based on this book), but it’s not a lesser sequel in any respect. I’m really loving this fantasy series and can’t wait to read the next one, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz!