Sunday, May 12, 2013

Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond

Oz Reimagined is basically Oz series fanfiction by published authors. The majority of them are either mediocre or bad. A select few proved to be just as magical as the series it's based on. I'm a huge Oz fan. I read most of the series as a kid and the 1939 film is still one of my favorite films. I love reading retellings and reimaginings of the stories, but a few things really annoy me. Stories that completely ignore the existence of Ozma, the ruler of Oz (I'm looking at you, Oz the Great and Powerful movie) annoy me because she's a central and very important character. Also, writing about the wizard like he actually has magical powers is flat out wrong. The whole point of his character is that he is a charismatic charlatan, not a true magician or wizard. A few of the stories fall into these pitfalls, but there were a few stand out stories that I loved.

Seanan McGuire's Emerald to Emerald, Dust to Dust is a definite standout. Dorothy is in disgrace after being rejected by the manipulative and bitter Ozma, but she remains the Wicked Witch of the West and the leader of the Winkies. Ozma threatens her in order to get her to solve a murder in the Emerald City. McGuire brings so much into the story: political intrigue, class war, drugs, bigotry, and complex relationships. This Dorothy is jaded and tired, but still does what is right, even if she receives no recognition. People like her from our world are seen as riff raff that need to be kept out. Much of Oz lives in poverty while the rich in the Emerald City blind themselves with emerald glasses. The sands from the Deadly Desert are turned into dangerous drugs. I would have loved to see this story fleshed out into a full length novel, especially because of the shocking revelation at the end.

One Flew Over the Rainbow by Robin Wasserman retells the basic Oz story in a mental institution. Dorothy is manipulative and draws Tin, Crow, and Roar into a group. The Wicked Bitch of the West is head of their ward and a yellow stripe runs through the east and west wings of the hospital. Together, the group of misfits grow bolder as they barter for alcohol and attempt to escape, but not everyone gets to go home. This contemporary retelling of Oz really stuck with me and used the Oz allusions the most successfully. It's a dark, gritty story that doesn't have a happy ending.

The Cobbler of Oz by Jonathan Maberry is the sweetest story that is great for all ages. Nyla, a winged monkey who can't fly, goes on an adventure with the help of a cobbler to fix  pair of magical silver shoes made of dragon scales. This one is the closest in tone and style to the original Oz stories. It's full of whimsy, magic, and tinged with sadness. The writing is wonderful and touching. I loved the story and it was a wonderful ending to the anthology.

I did enjoy a few of the other stories, but these are the ones that stayed with me. Too many of these stories just didn't stand out, but the ones that do are worth the read.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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