Reviews

Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die series book 3): Review

(Spoiler warning, but nothing too serious)

First off, I have to say that I’m pretty upset. I thought this series was only a trilogy, not sure why. I mean there were three book on the shelf at the store, I bought the three books, and I expected that to be the end of it. Anyway, this has definitely happened to me before, and I should really learn to start googling these things before I start a series, but I never learn. The point though, is that I’m pretty mad the series isn’t over yet.

If you’ve read my reviews of the first two books in the series you know that my feelings have been mixed. This book pretty much had all of the same problems as the previous two. I’m not going to rehash all of it, but basically the ideas and plot behind the story are interesting and have a lot of potential, but the execution of the story comes across really shallow. On the bright side, sitting here at the end of book three I feel like some of the main characters are finally starting to feel more genuine to me. Of course, it shouldn’t have taken three books for me to start feeling this way. If I were to compare this series to a movie I’d say it’s one of those action thrillers that has a plot, and it follows the plot, but you can tell that it was written specifically to allow for as many explosions, car chases, and gory fight scenes as possible, all at the expense of character development and cohesiveness.

So one reason why I’m upset that this series didn’t end with the third book is because it definitely could have. In fact, it very nearly did. The original aim of the series was pretty much completed in this book, but, surprise, something new happened, a new bad guy made himself known, and now the series goes on. This is something that often bothers me. I don’t like it when a story drags on after its natural conclusion. I mean, yes, I am totally fine with heroes facing more than one villain, and with multiple story arches, and things like that. But there’s a good way to do that, and there’s deciding to throw a new bad guy in at the end just to keep the series going. This series definitely seems like the latter to me. Possibly I would feel differently if I had known that the series went on past the third book, but I don’t think so. The series was set up with a very clear goal, an obvious conclusion, and I really think it should have ended there instead being dragged out.

On the other hand, things are getting really interesting over in OZ. That actually just makes me more angry because I really want to be finished with this series but now I’m to invested and really want to know what happens next. I guess that’s a positive though.

Alright, this third book in the series earns a grudging 3.5/5 from me. The plot is definitely getting interesting at this point, but mostly I’m just glad that the characters are starting to come into their own. This series is worth it if you’re willing to stick it out through all of the shallow characterization and plot devices to get to the interesting stuff.

Reviews

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die Series, book 2): Review

There will be some spoilers in the following post.

This second book in Paige’s series picks up right where the first book left of, with Amy fleeing after a failed attempt to kill Dorothy and take back Oz. With their plan unsuccessful and Dorothy in the wind, The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked isn’t doing so well. In fact, Amy can’t seem to find any of the other members. Can you guess what she spends most of the novel trying to do? The Wicked Will Rise
follows Amy as she tries to track down the missing members of the order, while also collection the magical items the Wizard told her she would need in order to kill Dorothy, all while trying to contend with the dark magic that is taking her over bit by bit. Sort of anyway.

I have as many or more issues with book two as I had with book one in this series. We have all of the same reoccurring issues, for example, how every time Amy comes up against a challenge that she doesn’t know how to handle something magical happens and she can “somehow”just do what ever needs to be done, and acquires a handy new magical ability in the process. As a result Amy pretty much never has to actually work for anything, and two-thirds of the way through the trilogy I still can’t get myself to feel invested in Amy as a character. Her successes are magically handed to her, she has very little, if any control over what’s going on around her and her emotional turmoil seems cheap in consequence. In this novel Paige seems to be trying to make use of the every-time-I-need-Amy-to-make-progress-or-the-plot-too-move-ahead-I’m-gonna-make-it-happen-magically-with-no-apparent-cause-or-effort-on-Amy’s-part plot device by making these inexplicable magical interventions and breakthroughs of a darkly magical nature. Basically Amy finds herself tapping into incredibly dark magical forces, the same magical forces that Dorothy used to take over Oz, without knowing why or how, but, hey, they work so she uses them. All the while she worries about what these dark powers mean and weather she could end up being corrupted by them like Dorothy was, but, again, her struggle never seems authentic to me. I think that Paige made a valiant effort to redeem her prodigious use of such a repetitive plot device by trying to turn it into a means for character development, but she doesn’t succeed. Which leads us to another issue common between this novel and the last.

We spend so much of this novel wandering in circles inside Amy’s head. It seems to me that Paige’s writing style is stuck somewhere between close first person and all knowing narrator, and the combination really doesn’t work. It leads to Amy instinctively knowing things whenever she needs to know them for no apparent reason except that she needs to for the plot to move along, and, worse, we get stuck in these endlessly repetitive loops of thoughts in Amy’s head. First, she struggles with the dark magic that she suddenly finds herself wielding, then she decides that as long as she has it she might as well use it even though it’s dangerous, because of some trauma, hardship, etc. from her past that makes her realize that she is a strong person who knows who she is, unlike Dorothy. Until the next crisis comes around and then she starts all over again. It gets tiresome very quickly.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand what Paige is trying to do with this story, but her execution just isn’t there yet. To be honest, I know I’m probably being a bit overly critical here, but it’s because a lot of the issues that I see constantly popping up in Paige’s writing are a lot of the same issues that have when I write, and that I have put a lot of hard work into becoming aware of and training myself not to do. It’s just something that I’m so aware of at this point that I can’t not notice it. I do realize though that I am not being completely fair, because there is a lot of good stuff in the novel too.

Paige has a lot of really good magical elements that help bring to life a unique and beautiful Oz. Some of her characters, like Lulu, Pete, and Ozma, are really interesting, and the plot is one that I find highly interesting. There are some elements that have been predictable, but, for the most part, at least in the big ways, I really don’t know what’s going to happen next and I want to find out. That’s what really keeps me reading at this point. What is the origin of Oz? Are we going to find out more about these mysterious faeries that have been discussed? What will happen with Ozma? What exactly has the Wizard’s role been in all this? It’s these questions that are going to keep me reading through the final book in the series.

I’ll give this the same 3/5 as I gave the previous book in the series. I’m tempted to give it a lower rating, but the interesting plot and beautiful magical elements redeemed it somewhat. This series has it’s issues, but it’s a fast read and good if you want a bit a break from harder or more complex novels.

 

Reviews

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die series, book 1): Review

There may be some minor spoilers in this post.

I’m a sucker for stories like this that take classics and make them into a modern, and often darker, version. I usually go more for fairy tale retellings rather than things like this, but when I saw this book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble I couldn’t resist. As you can probably tell from the title, this series is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, or, well, more of a sequel really. The premise is that after the end of the story that we all know Dorothy finds herself discontent back in her boring old life in Kansas. In some mysterious event as yet unexplained in the book she manages to get back to Oz, and that’s when things go terribly wrong. Dorothy, drunk on magical power and hailed as a hero by the people of Oz, has taken over the magical realm, draining it of all magic for her own personal use and enslaving its people. Interesting premise right? Right.

When constructing the backstory for this book Paige created a lot of compelling material for herself. Unfortunately, as I all to often find in the YA genre, she fails to make full use of it. Amy, Paige’s protagonist, like Dorothy, is a relatively ordinary girl from Kansas, though one with a significant amount of teenage angst built up from her terrible home and school life. Also like Dorothy, she gets swept off to Oz by a tornado. For reasons that still have not been made clear at the end of  first book in the series this means that she is the only one who can bring Dorothy down and return Oz to the beautiful and happy place that it was before.

Like I said, pretty good premise, and one that I was excited about, but it didn’t take me too long to realize that it wouldn’t be all I hoped. I felt that the beginning of the novel was rushed, like Paige was trying to get Amy to Oz as fast possible without making sure that the reader got to know Amy and get invested in her struggles before thrusting her into them headfirst. That’s pretty much how I felt throughout the novel. In contrast, however, I also started to feel like Paige was trying way to hard to get me to understand and sympathize with Amy. I completely understand (and enjoy when it’s done well) that angst and self discovery are pretty much staples of the YA genre, but in this novel I never really felt Amy’s struggles and emotional turmoil were real. Her struggle to find her own identity felt forced (and I mean literally, there were literally characters in the novel that were trying to force her to figure out who she was), and I felt like her emotional drama was devalued simply from being harped on too much. Through a large section of the novel, and at various other points throughout, it felt like the plot was being moved along only by her emotional outbursts, and, at the same time, the events of the plot were tailor made to  force these emotional outbursts. Like every time the plot was in danger of stalling or getting bogged down something would happen to push Amy over the edge causing her to achieve whatever thing she needed to achieve in order for the story to move on. While the character’s development should absolutely help move and shape the plot and vise versa in this particular novel the two are not working well together.

The thing that bothered me most about the book as a whole is that Amy seems to have that mysterious power that so many protagonists in the past have had, the power of “just knowing.” I can’t tell you how many times the phrase “somehow I just knew” appeared in this novel, mostly because I didn’t count, but it was a lot. Basically it felt like Amy never had to struggle to learn or understand anything, anytime she was confronted with a questionable situation where she might reasonably be uncertain she would “somehow just know” how to interpret such and such, or that such and such person could be trusted, or that this thing or that was the right thing to do. It cheapened her journey and her authenticity as a person. Granted, there are magical powers in Paige’s Oz and possibly this could explain Amy’s sixth sense, but there is never any indication that this is the case.

Okay, so after all that about the bad stuff about this novel you’re probably thinking I didn’t enjoy it. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was disappointed by Dorothy Must Die because I had expected it to amount to much more than it did, but, at the same time, there is a lot about it that was really interesting and that I really enjoyed. For example, the backstory that has brought Oz to this point, as well as the way beloved characters have become twisted into something dark, though still somehow recognizable and believable as themselves, was very well done and one of the best parts of the book. Additionally there were a lot of magical elements in Oz that I found refreshing and unique. I find that I really want to know what exactly brought all of these characters to the point that they’re at, what turned them, in some cases, so evil. And there are characters whose backgrounds and secrets I’m eager to have revealed. By the end of the novel I felt like Amy was becoming more complete as a character and I was becoming more invested in her.

I’m impressed by the Oz that Paige created here, and having, I confess, only seen the movie and never read the original, I wonder how much of it’s completely new and how much she drew from the original story. I can’t help but think that maybe there are subtleties in the novel that I am missing because I don’t understand their origins. If nothing else this novel has convinced me to finally read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

I will be continuing with this series. The first book left off with quite a cliff hanger that I’d like to see resolved, and, after finishing the novel, I too am convinced Dorothy really must die. I’ll give this a 3/5 and recommend that you read it if you’re looking for something not great, but fun and delightfully wicked.