So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


The Living House of Oz. Edward Einhorn with illustrations by Eric Shanower

The Living House of Oz is Edward Einhorn's second collaboration with Eric Shanower on an Oz novel. The first, Paradox in Oz, was critically aclaimed, and took Ozma, the fairy ruler of Oz, on a rollercoaster ride through time into an alternative Oz where good and evil characters were reversed.

The Living House of Oz has the classic structure of an Oz novel: a young child coming of age visits Oz and, through his adventures and interactions with the good people of Oz, he matures and overcomes a crisis. In this case Buddy and his sorceress mom have fled to Oz to find safety, but have to hide because his mother uses illegal magic to protect him from danger. When she is discovered and brought to Ozma, all Oz is threatened by her enemies.

Although the structure is traditional, Einhorn brings it new life with his examination of the two themes of Nature vs. Nurture and the Role of Law in a Just Society. Einhorn's delightfully eccentric characters, like the living hat stand called the Earl of Haberdashery and the tuneful flying piccolo Flutefly, lend the work a joyful and humorous presence that is brought to life by Shanower's beautiful illustrations. His color cover and endpapers and the black and white drawings throughout the book show that he is still the best living artist of Oz themes. Einhorn has shown himself to be a master of the genre by skillfully weaving in, not only themes from his previous novel, but also from two of L. Frank Baum's original series: The Emerald City of Oz and Glinda of Oz. Together Einhorn and Shanower are the best Oz Historians since the original team of Baum and Neill. They capture the essence of Oz as Baum and Neill imagined it and keep its timeless character, while presenting a sensibility that can be understood by a modern audience.

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