Book Review: Dorothy Must Die

By Ameerah Holliday

Before her explorations of Oz began, Danielle Paige  worked in the televisionDanielle Paige industry, receiving the Writers Guild of America Award and several Daytime Emmy nominations. A graduate of Columbia University, Paige currently resides in New York, where she has reimagined a classic story and taken us back into Oz. Dorothy Must Die  is Paige’s very first Young Adult novel and the start of a very unique series. The novel, published in April 2014, has since been nominated for a 2014 Book Shimmy Award and its story continues to grow with two prequel novellas No Place Like Home and The Witch Must Burn as well as a highly anticipated sequel.

Most people are familiar with Oz, the magical world created by L. Frank Baum where Dorothy and her dog Toto journeyed after being swept away in a Kansas tornado. Most of us know the story: yellow bricks, red shoes, magic and a classic happily ever after. “The End,” right? Well, not quite. Danielle Paige takes us on an exciting journey back to Oz to see exactly what happened after Dorothy clicked her heels three times. Apparently the results aren’t exactly what you’d expect them to be.

Unlike Dorothy Gale, Amy Gumm is our typical high school outcast turned heroine. She and her mother live in a small mobile home community in Dusty Acres, Kansas. As the caretaker of her addict mother, Amy has a typically hard teen lifestyle; she is bullied in school and can only afford Salvation Army clothing. Yet even as she struggles to discover herself, Amy is depicted as more than capable of handling all that life throws her way: even a tornado.

Dorothy Must Die CoverAs Amy is swept up in another outrageous Kansas tornado, she and her mother’s pet rat Star end up in Oz, which is now grey and dying as the magic is being sucked out and hoarded away from the land and all its people. Paige spends a tremendous amount of time describing and depicting the land to assure the reader that this isn’t the Oz that we, or Amy, remember from our childhoods. As Amy is introduced to new and interesting characters such as Ollie the wingless flying money, and Pete the mysterious gardener, she discovers that Dorothy has become obsessed with magic and power, and has taken power from Princess Ozma in order to rule all of Oz and its citizens.

Dorothy and her companions have become dictators: The Tin Woodman, The Scarecrow, Glinda: The Witch of the South, The Lion and Toto now control most of the magic in Oz and use it simply to keep Dorothy happy in power. After a drawn out adventure down the yellow brick road, Amy is finally exposed to enough horrendous situations to convince her that Dorothy is evil. She is eventually recruited into Oz’s Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, a group of stereotypically wicked witches with one thing in common: a desire to kill Dorothy. The novel contains a continuous theme that “Good” and “Wicked” are subjective terms and their meaning and intent continuously fluctuate. This theme also applies to appearances, the novel informs us that “just because someone has pretty hair and a good skin tone and a crown instead of a pointy hat doesn’t mean she’s not the baddest bitch this side of the emerald city.”

What I was going to do next was the same thing I’d been doing my whole life. […] Just put one foot in front of the other. Nothing had changed except the color of the road.”

The novel seems to be a constant reminder to be skeptical of everything in society. Although the story’s climax does not come until forty-two chapters in, I did enjoy the reimagined ideas and identities in the story. Amy is seen as “the other girl from Kansas” and although there is the fear that she’ll end up just like Dorothy, she is taught magic and is used as the main assassin in the Order’s plan for Dorothy’s demise. Amy’s use of magic becomes a clear tool in helping her learn about herself as well, since “magic always wants to be something different from what it already is. […] It reminded me of myself.”

In this lengthy, forty-four chaptered novel I expected to get the confrontation and outcome promised by the title. However, the novel ends in the midst of Amy’s first true attempt to kill Dorothy. As Dorothy escapes at the last possible second and the rest of the Order of the Wicked fight off her army, Amy is gifted by the Wizard with key knowledge she’ll need if she ever wants to find and defeat Dorothy once and for all.

As a reader working with a new author is always a risk because you’re never quite sure what you’re getting yourself into. Initially when I brought this book,Dorothy Must Die quote the length and size of it gave me the impression that I was in for a complete story. As I read the novel, aspects like Amy’s magic training, and her undercover entrance into the palace as handmaid Astrid seemed to be slowed down or expressed in vivid detail. These details slowly began to hint at the idea of a sequel to the novel and as I reached the novel’s cliffhanger ending, I was slightly disappointed to discover I was correct. Dorothy Must Die  is an exciting novel that reimagines the ideas we all have of the “Merry Old Land of Oz”. As a standalone novel, it seems to be a slow read but as a series I am slightly interested to see what kind of adventures await us in Oz. The novel’s sequel, The Wicked Will Rise  will be available March 2015, until then be sure to check out this novel as well as its two digital prequel novellas.

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