My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Rating – 3/ 3.5 stars.
I had very big expectations for this book. My friends read, reviewed and enjoyed it, there didn’t seem to be anything that could go wrong. But after I finished, I was left with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction, like I had been eating a heap of cotton candy and expected it to fill my stomach. In short, there just isn’t any stuffing in this turkey.
The Setting –
This Oz isn’t the cuddly stuff from the movie any more. If Frank L.Baum read this, I bet he’d run away screaming. Everything is dangerous. From the eponymous Princess Dorothy to the not-so-cowardly animals in the woods to the oily black corn that grows in the fields, all things in Oz are designed to be scary or to kill or both. Even the yellow brick road has a menacing aura.
“The road wants you to go to the city.”
“The road? Wants . . . me?” I rubbed my head in confusion.
“It wants everyone. That’s what it’s for. The road’s been here longer than any of us. There’s deep magic in there—magic even she doesn’t understand. Some people think it has a mind of its own. It wants you to go to the city, but it doesn’t like to make the trip easy.”
The world is well realised and absolutely gorgeous. I could keep giving examples of the strange, eerie beauty, but I have to keep this review to a readable length. Perhaps the right word for the world is post-apocalyptic, though I’m not really sure it fits the term. Above all, it is oppressive and bleak. As illustrated by Goth Munchkins.
The Heroine –
I adored this heroine almost all throughout the book. Amy is extremely sensible, reasonably suspicious of everyone, realises that she is not a special snowflake but someone caught up in a big mess and the icing on the cake – she has pink hair. You have to like a girl with the guts to color her hair like that. Did I mention she’s quick-thinking?
“Yes or no. This was the kind of thing you read about in fairy tales. What she meant was that if I wanted her help, I would have to agree to something. She just wasn’t going to bother telling me what until it was too late.
Thunk, stomp, thunk, squeak.
“What’s the catch?” I asked. “I’m not giving you my firstborn, if that’s what you want.”
“Oh,” she said. “That won’t be necessary. The second-born will do.”
Haha. You go, girl. Both of you.
The Teeny-Tiny Details –
There are so many Easter eggs in this book. It was fun to see what would pop up next. Some fun stuff you can find are Dorothy’s gingham dresses in literally every conceivable cut:
“Calling it a closet was an understatement. It was as big as one of the caves back in the Order. There were dresses, mini and maxi, corseted and flowy, and ball gowns and short-shorts and skinny pants. The clothes were endless in their variety, but they all had one thing in common: they all bore a familiar, blue-checked print.”
The use of polysyndetons:
“There were foxes and crocodiles and wolves and tigers and bears.”
And of course, the super high red heels:
“They were bright-red high heels, at least six inches tall and made from the shiniest leather I’d ever seen. ”
I’ll let you figure out the others.
The Plot –
That *points up* was what I was expecting. What I got instead was a lot of denial, internal struggle, dressing up, dusting, useless assassin “training”, and more dusting. Oh, and some magical cosmetic surgery.
“Glamora’s fingers passed through my hair, adjusting the color—first blue, then green, then back to pink—a better pink—with depth of color and shine that my hair had never had even when it was its natural color, the dirtiest of blondes. Now it was just north of cotton-candy pink. ”
“She blinked and my cheeks were rosier. Again and my lips were a deep red gloss. And again and a delicate pattern of green and gray shadow made half-moons over my eyes. And again and my lashes seemed to grow a quarter of an inch. One more time and glitter showered from above me.”
And what is the book called? Dorothy must DIE. Not DYE. But Dorothy doesn’t die. The blurb, by the way, has nothing to do with the book, not until the last three pages. So don’t go in expecting an epic quest to take down Dorothy’s evil minions. Nothing happens for a long time, then suddenly in the last two chapters a whole whirlwind of somehting happens and we are left waiting for the next book. I do not appreciate sacrificing a decent plot for a stretched out series.
The Heroine –
Remember how I said I liked Amy for almost the whole book? Note the almost, because here comes the ire of a very disappointed reader.
Amy was doing great in the beginning. She did everything a smart, normal teenager would do. But then all of a sudden she develops, much to her misfortune, a CONSCIENCE. You know that thing. It niggles you at night after you’ve fed laxatives to your neighbour’s cat and turns perfectly good assassin heroines to dithering moral mush. I don’t encourage indifferent characters without a heart. But if you know someone is as bad as Dorothy is, you do not stand around and think about how Disneyland would look in comparison to Oz when an assassination opportunity pops up. You stick the knife in her eye and be done with it. For goodness sakes, the female has her ugly Lion rip the arm off a girl and then has the stupid Scarecrow reanimate her dead body to serve drinks. She’s basically Caligula in heels. But Amy, no, Amy has to do this:
“I took a step forward.
With Dorothy helpless in front of me, basically just waiting to die, I hesitated. It was different this way—having time to think about it, not trying to kill her in the heat of the moment. I needed to be cold-blooded, to remember everything that she’d done, to remember that the girl standing in front of me was a monster.”
“I didn’t reply. I knew she was buying time, a classic desperation maneuver. I inched closer… I wasn’t stupid—I knew I couldn’t listen to her. But—what if she was right? What if we were alike? Dorothy hadn’t been like this when she’d first gotten here. It wasn’t until she killed the witches that she started to change.
If I killed her, did that bring me one step closer to becoming her?”
WHY AMY WHY?
The Other Characters –
It has to be said that I found the supporting characters boring somehow. The Scarecrow was icky, the Lion overdone beef and the Tin Man plain weird. Admittedly the other minor characters were a tad scary, like the bicycle arms creature, but most of them are forgettable. In theory they are terrifying, what with the evil scientist experiments the Scarecrow likes and the Lion’s tendency to eat people’s eyes for hors d’oeuvres. They don’t actually have personalities though; this applies to the members of the Order as well. And what the hell is that Wizard doing here? The one dynamic I did find interesting was the one between Glinda and Glamora. I get the impression that Dorothy isn’t the one really pulling the strings around here, which makes Glinda a character to watch out for.
The Romance –
Nox and Amy. A pointless pairing we could have done without. When I was reading Death Sworn , I was struck by how similar the main characters in the two books were. So if you click that link and read the review, you’ll understand exactly how I feel about Nox and Amy. The whole thing is like ice catching fire – you don’t know how or why it happened, but it did. Far more attention grabbing is the Tin Man’s unrequited crush on Dorothy. It is an interesting twist that makes sense in the light of his history and adds to the complexity of the already twisted world. And it makes for good jokes.
“I remembered what I’d seen of the Tin Woodman in the magic picture in Dorothy’s parlor, mooning over the princess. I knew his weakness. It should’ve been like picturing him in his metal underwear, thinking about him writing bad love poetry to Dorothy in motor oil.”
Ultimately, no amount of pretty scenery is going to change the fact that this novel is, as Agatha Christie put it, mutton dressed up as lamb (apologies for all the food analogies.) It had all the elements of a gripping novel, except a solid storyline. I expected that the book’s premise would make it different. The reality is that it has a different setting, slightly unusual characters and the usual girl-saves-all-but-can’t-kill story. So read it for the writing, not the plot.