A few months ago I started reading, for the first time since childhood, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, a gorgeous annotated edition that had nearly 100 pages of biography on Baum and all sorts of neat trivia about the book. When I was a kid my mom bought me the first few Oz books, so I’ve had most of the books on my bookshelf for going on twenty-five years. The farthest I ever got back in the third grade was Ozma of Oz, and I thought it was time to finally explore what else Baum’s world had to offer.
It’s been so much fun for me to curl up in bed for a few hours each week and check out Baum’s latest offering. It’s kind of amazing to think I only have one left to read — Glinda of Oz — before this sometimes frustrating but mostly enjoyable journey comes to a close. I haven’t liked all of the books, with some so far removed from the core set characters we love and adore that at times they don’t even feel like Oz books. Unfortunately, The Magic of Oz is one of the lesser entries in the series.
Like Scarecrow of Oz and Riki-Tink in Oz, the characters we’ve come to know and love act as side characters to the new Kiki Aru, who finds great use with his newfound magical power. Baum bounces around to a few stories throughout the novel, essentially making this his “Magnolia,” but unfortunately the storyline here is nowhere near as compelling as the twelfth book in the series, Tin Woodman of Oz, which kept me throughout engaged from beginning to end.
I find the best books in series, like Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz, to have high stakes, with the lesser having little to no stakes, like The Magic of Oz, which has a storyline that depends on whether or not Dorothy and the Wizard can find Ozma a frickin’ birthday present (!). The best scenes of the book occur at the end, like when all of the characters sit around Ozma’s birthday table and make conversation, and the last chapter when the Nome King finally gets his comeuppance in the Emerald City.
Overall, this was an OK read, not the worst of the series, but not one of the best either. I have a fixation on the books revolving around the characters from the previous books that I’m interested in, and when Baum throws in a new character for half the book that doesn’t offer much interest or personality, I tune out a little.
Let’s hope Glinda of Oz ends the fourteen book series on a high note!