So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Red Gorilla of Oz

The Red Gorilla of Oz: Founded on and Continuing the Famous Oz Stories by L. Frank Baum by Richard Capwell

The Red Gorilla of Oz is one of many books that are, as its subtitle states, "founded on and continuing the famous Oz stories of L. Frank Baum." It is the first of two Oz books written in 2012 by Richard Capwell, who has also written Santa Claus in Oz. He doesn't claim to be a "Royal Historian of Oz" as Baum did in the later of his 14 books about adventures in Oz, but it is clear that he is, like Ruth Plumly Thompson, Sherwood Smith, and Eric Shanower, writing in the same tradition.
The Red Gorilla in Oz is a typical Oz book in that it builds on the previous stories in the series, adding a few new characters and revealing new information about older established characters like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman. This book is clearly aimed at the small group of readers like me who have read all or most of the L. Frank Baum books and maybe some others. It is not the best book to start reading about Oz, however it explains the history as it goes along and can be read alone. One small drawback is that, unlike most other Oz books, there is no illustrator, and Capwell relies on verbal description alone to explain the fantastic fairy world that Baum first created over 100 years ago.
The story is a typical adventure quest where three youths must prove themselves in overcoming some adversity and grow up and mature in the process. In Oz no one grows up unless they want to and people can stop aging when they like, so we end up with a coming of age story with characters hundreds or thousands of years old.
In The Red Gorilla of Oz someone is stealing all the magic from the land of Oz. Sebastian, the young prince of the Red Gorillas sets out from his secret mountain home to find Glinda the Good Witch of the South when the magic fire that protects his land goes out. He meets a young Kalidah named Priscilla who has gotten lost. Kalidahs are vicious predators with bodies like bears, heads like tigers, and sharp claws, but Priscilla is more of a rebellious child. The third "youth" is a fairy named Iliana, the youngest daughter of the Moon, who is bored with her life and is fascinated by Sebastian and his quest.
Capwell delves into the back story of Dr. Pipt, whose magic Powder of Life has animated more characters than was previously known. The story reveals the secrets of the loves of Nimmee Aimee, the beautiful Munchkin woman who was enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the East. Also readers learn the history of the Flying Monkeys who were forced to obey the wishes of the owner of the magical Golden Cap. As an Oz historian, he has done his research well, pointing out and explaining inconsistencies and the unrevealed past.
With all this attention to Ozianic details, he still tells a tightly scripted story that held my attention to the very end. It is a delightful tale for Oz-loving adults who have held on to a bit of their childlike fascination but may also appeal to a new generation of young people. I cannot wait to see how he treats one of L. Frank Baum's favorite character in Santa Claus in Oz.


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