Title: No Place Like Oz
Author: Danielle Paige
Format: E-Book Novella
Set two years after Dorothy’s triumph over the witches of Oz, Dorothy is stuck in Kansas, now a sad, bullied girl who longs for the opulence and magic of Oz. On her sixteenth birthday, Dorothy receives a pair of ruby shoes and a cryptic message signed “G”. Dorothy puts on the heels, returning to Oz along with her clueless aunt and uncle but finds that nothing is how she left it. Her friends have disbanded. A mysterious new ruler occupies the Emerald City’s throne and with Glinda the Good Witch missing, all is not well in Oz.
Kansas is a good starting point. It establishes a standard with which to compare the extraordinary that’s to follow. We get to see how Dorothy’s life has changed and that subsequently feeds in to how she herself evolves as a character. The ending whets your appetite for the main novel.
The first-person narration is distinguished from Amy’s voice in Dorothy Must Die. At times, modernity breaks through in her words and the way that she acts but ultimately, we get a perspective that’s true to the author’s vision.
Dorothy’s transformation is gradual:
- Her longing for Oz features within the initial pages
- “THE GIRL WHO RODE THE CYCLONE. That headline, from the Star, was my favourite.”
- She invited a reporter from the Carrier to her sixteenth birthday
- She realises at her birthday that she has no friends except the ones in Oz (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion)
- She starts to lash out at her aunt and uncle when they want to go home
I was annoyed at how drastic her change is in the conclusion. I feel like the author needed more time to work the final stages of her transformation to make me believe it. I was also confused by Glinda. When she appears, she offers vague answers and uses odd phrases that are uncharacteristic to the original Glinda to the point where it feels like an entirely new character and Dorothy doesn’t question her. Glinda’s first words are “[m]y beautiful, powerful, angry Dorothy” and instead of comforting Dorothy, she tells her she’ll have a new family. Though a minor detail, Polychrome’s dress, like Ozma’s, is described as being “diaphanous”. It draws a comparison because these are the only two uses of the word in the book. It takes away from Ozma’s character, making me think that maybe she isn’t as grand and beautiful as Dorothy remarks. Diaphanous is such a rare word. If both dresses were big or blue or even frilly, it would be different but such a precise word is attributed to both characters’ dresses that I can’t help but draw a link between both characters.
Quality of Writing:
There’s quite a bit of repetition in the writing style. In the Forest of Fear, everyone is “screaming”, and the trees are “snapping” and “cracking” repetitively. The excessive detail acts like a vacuum that sucks the tension out of the scene. It’s the cultural references that really grate though. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and it’s assumed that it was set in the same year. This novella is set two years after which would make it 1902 and yet, the following references contradict and confuse:
- The Great War (19-14-1918)
- Shirley Temple (who wasn’t born until 1928)
- Henry Ford (who I would argue, didn’t gain prominence until 1903 though I’m willing to let this one slide somewhat)
Further to this, the author describes the trees’ faces in the Forest of Fear as being “frozen into gargoyle masks” but they’re not literally frozen and later, Dorothy says that her desire was a tornado and it’s baffling whether or not it’s an actual tornado? When you use this supernatural terminology in a paranormal tale, you need to be extremely careful and this is a good example of how you can stop your reader in their tracks and lose a customer and more importantly, a fan. Also, there are clunky sentences and some uses of the present tense that jar the reading experience.
The cons above are somewhat saddening since overall, the writing style is actually quite clever and sometimes funny:
- “This is what a place like this does to you. It makes you put words in the beaks of chickens.”
- “They might be old, but at least they could still outrun a few trees.”
- “Had the trees’ bark simply been worse than their bite?”
There’s nothing wrong with the setting. I just wish that some of the detail could be sliced into the piece. The author uses the established Oz that most of us would have some, if varying, knowledge of, to her advantage.
The novella can be compared in some ways to other YA retellings though it’s difficult since it’s considerably shorter. I like how the author immerses us in Oz, especially since it’s unlikely that everyone has read L. Frank Baum’s original. The movie is not the book – just to clarify. Dorothy Must Die offers a stronger heroine, improved world-building and more diversity in the range of characters. The characters come off a bit stilted in the novella. I do, however, enjoy the twist and Dorothy’s evolution throughout. Starcrossed is a similar YA title, that explores the Helen of Troy myth along with Everneath, which looks at the Hades/Persephone myth. The retelling element is far more subtle though and while I prefer this, the excessive, less-than-subtle approach works well in No Place Like Oz. I just wish the characters could be slightly more rounded and intriguing like Ozma.
NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…
- Humorous and witty writing though sometimes clunky and the detail can be excessive
- The chronicling od Dorothy’s light to dark journey is gradual and gripping
- The author works off a world that most of us already love, or will, after reading this, enjoy
- Some inaccurate, cultural references jar the reading experience
Books You May Also Like:
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini – for another YA retelling that delivers romance, danger and adventure
Everneath by Brodi Ashton – for another YA retelling that offers a love triangle and loss
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – delve deeper into Oz with a relatable narrator and a tale full of betrayal and magic