Dorothy Must Die
By Danielle Paige
Published by Harper
ISBN 978 0 06 228068 8
In New York in 1900, a children’s author called L. Frank Baum published a short novel that was to become one of the most famous stories of all time. The Wizard of Oz immediately caught the imagination of readers both young and old, and it has never been out of print since the day it was first published. Baum went on to write 13 sequel stories set in Oz.
A stage version in 1902 and the iconic musical film in 1939 brought more readers to Baum’s original tale, while the massively successful musical, Wicked – a kind of prequel to Baum’s story – is playing to packed houses in London and New York, and soon will come to Hong Kong.
Baum’s novel tells the story of what happens when Dorothy and her dog Toto get whisked away from their home in Kansas by a tornado and land in Oz, accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East, and all the adventures that follow.
Re-boots of classic stories are very much in fashion at the moment, even though any writer taking on a much-loved story does so at his or her peril. Danielle Paige’s new take on The Wizard of Oz isn’t quite as outrageous as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash up of Jane Austen, but it is very, very different from the original. A clue to what Paige has done to Baum’s story lies in the title, Dorothy Must Die.
Kansas teen Amy Gumm lives in a trailer park with her alcoholic mum. She is ridiculed at school for being dirt-poor, and just when she thinks that her life can’t get more miserable, a tornado hits town and whisks her tin trailer home off to Oz.
She lands exactly where Dorothy landed all those years ago, at the start of the Yellow Brick Road. Once Paige has got her heroine in place, she lets rip with her brilliant imagination. Amy soon learns that Oz has sunken into a morass of greed and corruption because Dorothy is now its ruler, and she has become a vicious, megalomaniacal despot.
Baum’s classic characters – the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion all appear, but Paige has changed them into horrific versions of their original selves. This is a dystopian version of Oz with a high body count and some quite horrific scenes – and a smattering of strong language.
But in Paige’s assured hands, it all works perfectly. Clever plot twists will keep readers guessing, and the new characters along the Yellow Brick Road all fit in well with the concept.
Purists might be horrified at this reboot, but the rest of us will find much here to entertain, thrill and enjoy. The excellent cover art is an added bonus to a great read.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com