I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado - taking you with it - you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road - but even that’s crumbling. What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe. My name is Amy Gumm - and I’m the other girl from Kansas. I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I’ve been trained to fight. And I have a mission.
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First off, if you're looking for a 100% standalone novel, this is not it. While it doesn't exactly end in what I would term a cliffhanger, the conclusion raises a lot more questions than it answers and the main character narrating the story puts it right out there that it's not over. Another small warning if you're buying this for your kid -- while this appears to be firmly in YA territory, be aware that there are several bloody bits and language that would get a movie rated R. So if that bothers you, consider carefully before you buy.
So about the book itself. I found this one to be a rather mixed bag. There are a lot of interesting concepts going on in this book, but I didn't really feel like any of them were fully realized or explained. Since there are apparently going to be sequels to this book, I realize you can't spill all the beans straight off, but at the end of this book my knowledge of how Oz came to such a pass is still pretty negligible. You learn early on that, surprise! Dorothy and cohorts are now the evil rulers of Oz. What never gets explained satisfactorily is why. It's suggested throughout the book that the Oz books we know and love weren't wrong, that everything did happen that way and that Dorothy used to be good and has changed. There's a hint that she developed an addiction to magic, but her becoming a sort of magical junkie doesn't fully explain the depths of corruption and sadism to which Dorothy has sunk. To be fair, I have just noticed today that there is a prequel novella available for the Kindle on Amazon which may answer some of these question.
Several other things bothered me about this book as well. Our narrator and main character gets bullied from page one and that pretty much goes on throughout the book. She gets bullied into joining the revolution, she gets bullied for being rubbish at training in the beginning (like, wow, you're a teenager from a world in which you don't have to defend yourself from anything more serious than a high school shoving contest, why aren't you the uber warrior we need?!), she gets bullied for not being the hard as nails, nothing before the cause soldier that she was kind of forced into training to be. Adversity makes a story, but seriously? Do we need to ream the girl at every turn when there can be no reasonable expectation for her to have adapted so well to this world in so short a time?
Overall, I'm giving this book 3 stars across the board. The narrator wasn't bad and did seem to bring across the teenager attitude the main character had. This was occasionally annoying as teenagers are occasionally annoying, but I can't fault her for playing her part to a tee. The premise of this book was and still remains intriguing to me and the writing itself was adequate. It could be entirely possible that the sequel to this book, whenever it comes out, will kick much more butt than this one did. I really hope it does. I'd love to see Amy Gumm come into her own, start making her own decisions and her own plans. I'd love to see her fight back on her own terms and not just follow someone else's idea of what's best. She definitely didn't do those things in this book, but I think there's still hope for her yet.
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige was one of my most anticipated reads of the season. I read and loved the prequel - No Place Like Oz - and indeed my desire to read Dorothy Must Die sent me into a reading slump for a while as nothing else hit the spot. Having read it, I can say that, while there was a lot to enjoy about Dorothy Must Die it didn’t quite live up to my anticipation.
What I liked
The protagonist. I really liked our protagonist, Amy Gumm, and enjoyed following her journey. She is a strong, kick-ass heroine, yet is dealing with her own internal demons and has her own buttons that can be pressed. Coming from Kansas as she does, she is the reader’s inroad to Dorothy’s Oz. Many parallels are drawn between Amy and Dorothy; both are originally from Kansas, both were feeling trapped in their mundane lives with little escape from their farm/small town before their arrival in Oz. Both are sensitive to the magic that is all around in Oz.
The worldbuilding. While it’s fair to say that L. Frank Baum did a lot of the heavy lifting in his creation of the world of Oz, Paige has added her own twist to the world. Baum’s Oz is clearly identifiable in the book, but there is a much darker twist to it with Dorothy’s influence. It’s based on the children’s novels rather than the 1939 Judy Garland film in that there are characters mentioned who are in the books not in the movie, and also that the original slippers are silver not red. I would suggest you read No Place Like Oz first before coming to Dorothy Must Die to get an idea of the background.
Good vs Wicked and Trust. The question of trust and whom to trust and whom not to trust comes up too many times for it not to be a major theme in the series. Amy is working for the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and is repeatedly advised by the operatives not to trust anyone. It’s clear that they don’t trust Amy either, keeping her in the dark until the last possible moment. It’s a common trope in good vs evil fantasy that the good guys always win because they trust their colleagues to have their backs and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good whereas the bad guys are too busy looking out for themselves to implement any cohesive plans or trust their colleagues to work with them. Although the so-called wicked have come together in Dorothy Must Die they don’t have that trust that good guys have. It’s an interesting twist and I look forward to seeing how it plays out in subsequent books.
Writing style. I did enjoy Paige’s writing style. It came across as fresh and immediate and really brought me into the story.
What I didn’t like
Pacing. Here we come to the main problem I had with Dorothy Must Die; the pacing was off. For a significant chunk of the first half of the book Amy is training with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked yet, due to trust issues mentioned above, has not been given a goal to work towards except the vague Dorothy Must Die. This section drags on far too long and really slows the book down. I would encourage you to work past this section though - it improves a lot once Amy is working on a more specific goal.
Misleading marketing. HarperCollins’ blurb for Dorothy Must Die contains the following:
"My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.I've been trained to fight.And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.Steal the Scarecrow's brain.Take the Lion's courage.Then and only then—Dorothy must die!"
If that is the blurb you’re using to hook readers into the book, it might be a good idea to have your protagonist actually work towards that goal in that book and not have it be a supposed finale twist that Dorothy can’t die until the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow and Lion have been neutralised. Clearly, it’s a blurb for the series as a whole not just Dorothy Must Die. When reading the book please bear this in mind so that you are not frustrated at the end.
The audio narration. In general I really liked Devon Sorvari’s narration. She really brought out Amy’s strength of character and kick-ass attitude. However there were long pauses left at the end of each paragraph - long enough to be very noticeable and very irritating. I kept wondering if I’d reached the end of a chapter.
In general though I really enjoyed Dorothy Must Die and will definitely continue with the rest of the series. Amy is a really great character and I love the world of Oz. I look forward to seeing more.