Aunt Em and Uncle Henry finally move to Oz, and Dorothy treats them to a series of adventures.
Author: L. Frank Baum
What They Say:
Dorothy has decided to take Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to the Land of Oz, with the help of Princess Ozma. As they embark together on a tour of the land, Dorothy is unaware that the Nome King, squatting in his underground Kingdom, is plotting to seize the Land of Oz. He sets out to recruit new allies to help the Nome army and burrows his way to the centre of the Emerald City. Can his diabolical army be defeated by Dorothy, Princess Ozma of Oz and their friends? In this captivating installment in the Oz series, as well as being reacquainted with favourite characters from previous books such as the Cowardly Lion, Billina the yellow hen and the Wooden Sawhorse, we are introduced to many weird and wonderful new ones such as Miss Cuttenclip, the paranoid Flutterbudgets and the living kitchen utensils of Utensia.
Hesperus took a lot of care in their release of the Oz books. Despite being a paperback, the binding is thick and sturdy, not even cracking when I open the book all the way, and the paper is high quality. The covers, comprised of three colors, are simple and stunning, even if this particular book only depicts a chicken on the front. The only thing I miss from this edition are the illustrations which, if nothing else, have always been fun to look at.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Having only read the original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, before, I was happy to find that despite being the sixth book in the series, The Emerald City of Oz was fairly easy to jump into. This is partly because Baum explains the pertinent things that have already happened, though not in away that the book becomes cluttered with recap. He even goes as far as to reintroduce some of the characters, ostensibly for the benefit of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, so that we understand the past significance of most of the characters.
There are two important plots in this book: first, that Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, on the verge of being kicked out of their home, come to live in Oz with Dorothy forever. The second is that the Nome King, furious over his defeat by Dorothy and Princess Ozma, plans to dig a tunnel to the Emerald City and there, with a host of evil allies, destroy Oz and enslave the people. The big finale is when the Nome King’s tunnel finally breaks through, but on our way there Baum takes us on quite a few side trips. Most of these are pretty amusing, like when Dorothy winds up in the kingdom Utensia and Baum practically assaults us with puns (“Why is the colander the High Priest?” “He’s the holiest thing we have in the kingdom”). But unlike the little side trips from the original Oz book, none of these really build towards the climax. Instead, they feel like a bunch of bonus short stories. While fun, these tangents really clog up the flow of the book and delay the main plot, which probably could have been written in just a few chapters.
Even after the story gets on track and Dorothy and the others learn of the Nome King’s invasion, there’s still not a lot of drama associated with it. Granted, most of them are very worried — though not so worried that they don’t take a tour of the Scarecrow’s house — but when we see how calm and collected Ozma is, despite having been aware of the invasion, we calm down, knowing that things are going to turn out all right. And they do, a little too easily, as the Nome King and his frightening friends are taken care of in an almost anti-climactic way, fizzling out the extensive build up of these dangerous enemies in just a page.
Thanks to the multiple side-trips and constant derailing of the plot, The Emerald City of Oz was much more difficult than the original novel to get really wrapped up in; the story couldn’t seem to focus, and, as a reader, neither could I. Of course, the book is still highly enjoyable, with Baum showing his extensive imagination with each new land and people Dorothy and the others visited. The lack of real drama and fear for our heroes keeps it from being as memorable an adventure story as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was, but it’s still a pretty fun return.
Content Grade: B+
Published By: Hesperus Press (The Emerald City of Oz)
Release Date: April 1, 2013