Book Review: The Magic of Oz

11081386_1_lTitle: The Magic of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 13 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1919
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 266
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: The Magic of Oz

Synopsis: There’s trouble once again in the land of Oz!

The mischievous boy Kiki Aru has discovered a magical word–Pyrzqxgl–can transform him and anyone else into whatever Kiki demands. Worse yet, Kiki has been recruited by the villainous Nome King in his latest attempt to get revenge on Princess Ozma and all her friends.

While Ozma’s court plans a spectacular celebration for her birthday, Dorothy and the Wizard set out with the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger to find a gift for their beloved princess. But in the Forest of Gugu they become entangled in the wicked plans and magical transformations of Kiki and the Nome King.

Can Dorothy and the Wizard stop the evil-doers before they conquer Oz? Or will Kiki’s incredible powers finally give the Nome King the revenge he has craved for so long? (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: A year ago this week 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. At the time I was working on my newest revision of my young adult novel Over the Rainbow, a subversive modern day update of The Wizard of Oz, and I thought it would be fun to embark on a fourteen-month project and finally read all of Baum’s Oz books, not just the first one or two. When I was a kid my mom bought me the first 10, so I’ve had most of the books on my bookshelf for about twenty 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.

A lot has happened in the last year—I finally finished and self-published Over the Rainbow, started graduate school and teaching, and completed two additional novels—but in the midst of all of life’s craziness, it’s been so much fun for me to curl up in bed for a few hours each month 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.

I’m hoping Glinda of Oz ends the fourteen book series on a high note. Check back in December to see what I think of Baum’s last book, and my thoughts on the series as a whole!

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