So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Daughters of Destiny. L. Frank Baum

Daughters of Destiny was originally published 100 years ago under the pseudonym Schuyler Staunton. This was the name Baum used for 2 of his novels written for an adult audience. It takes place in London and Baluchistan, on the Arabian Sea, which is now part of the countries of Pakistan and Iran. Famous for his children's books about the land of Oz, Baum was excellent at creating uncomplicated and strong characters and developing plots based on their interactions.

This book is no exception. A group of six Americans hires a Baluchi prince in exile to guide them to Baluchistan to negotiate the rights for a railroad. The prince is hoping to gain the throne when the current monarch dies. Their business plans get sidetracked by local intrigue over succession to the throne of the dying king.

Three of the Americans are women: the daughters of the two businessmen, and an aunt. They get swept up in the local affairs and romantic interests blossom. It is their destinies that drive the plot forward.

Baum's characters are either devious and plotting or noble and altruistic, and good wins out over evil in the end. Sadly, his ethnic portrayals are racist and stereotypical which makes this novel an interesting glimpse into the racial bias prevalent at the beginning of the 20th century. A good read for Baum fans and people interested in the portrayal of the Middle East in literature, but this will never be more than fringe literature in our modern culture.

The illustrations by Eric Shanower are well done and capture the essence of Baum's characters. While there is a hardbound edition limited to 250 copies, the complete work is also available in Oz-Story #4, both from Hungry Tiger Press.


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