So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Emerald Wand of Oz. Sherwood Smith

The Emerald Wand of Oz is an Oz story in the classic form created by L. Frank Baum over 100 years ago. Yet it has a modern flavor that may make it acceptable to a young audience.

It has a seal on the front cover proclaiming that Smith has an Official License to be Royal Historian of Oz that comes from The L. Frank Baum Family Trust. Before the Baum Oz books came into the public domain this was very important because the family trust controlled the use and depiction of the characters created by Baum. Lately this has been less relevant, and many authors have taken their hand to writing non-official Oz books with varying degrees of success.

In this book two sisters, from Lawrence Kansas, who believe they are related to Dorothy Gale get transported to Oz by a tornado. They get adopted into a community of children who groom a herd of wild unicorns, and pick up a strange friend who, like them, wants to escape from the possessive and vain unicorns. Their goal is to find Glinda and ask to be returned home to Kansas. Yet, as in so many Oz stories, there is a threat to the fairy land of Oz. This time it is the niece of the Wicked Witch of the West, who has taken up residence in her aunt's old castle, and has cast a spell on the fairy ruler Ozma, the good witch Glinda, and the Wizard. As in the classic Oz stories, a group of Ozzy characters who seem silly and helpless join together to defeat the villain and restore order. Once things are returned to normal, there is a banquet in the Emerald City, and the children are returned to their normal life much more mature and aware of the importance of group action and compassion.

This is planned to be the first of a three volume series by Smith, and so there are parts of the plot that do not get resolved. This gives the plot a loose feeling that Baum would never have tolerated. Sadly, Byron Preiss who was funding this project tragically died last July, and his publishing company declared bankrupcy this February. So the future of the project is deeply in question. Hopefully, someone will pick it up and see it to completion. Smith feels that the other two books are even better than this one, and it would be a shame if they never see print.

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