Friday, December 25, 2015

More Oz Books I've Read Not So Long Ago

I've fallen a little behind on updating you on what I've been reading, but I have a bit of time right now, so I may as well do the update. Back in my last round of reading, you may have seen my reread of The Emerald Wand of Oz. So of course this time around I read it's sequel, Trouble Under Oz, also by Sherwood Smith. Unlike Emerald Wand, I remembered almost nothing of this book, so I'm glad I read it again! Thanks to a blizzard, Em and Dori are stuck at home when they're summoned to Oz to find out what is up with Nome Prince Rik. But someone has to stay behind and deal with calls from Mom, Dad, and the neighbors checking up on them. Dori goes, leaving Em to head everyone off at the pass. Ozma enlists the aid of Prince Inga of Pingaree, and he joins Dori and Rik on a number of adventures. Kaliko diverts them to the Mangaboo Country, and they also end up visiting the Valley of Voe before Rik finally tries to take over the Nome Kingdom. This proves to be easier than imagined, as Kaliko abdicates! Weary is the head that wears a crown, however, and it turns out that being King of the Nomes isn't a lot of fun — and then the Dinods, Hizzers, and Phanfasms all decide to invade! Needless to say, all eventually gets resolved, and Rik makes a few hard decisions, but a lot happens! And back in Kansas, the weather is clearing up. Despite all the visits to old places created by L. Frank Baum, this was a rollicking good read, and I enjoyed it a lot. Smith also does a great job of developing Inga as a character being groomed to rule his own country who is trying to impart those lessons onto another. But he's still the same kid we saw avenge the invasion of his home back in Rinkitink in Oz as well.

One big reason I wanted to read these two books is because a third book is available at last! Smith's series was originally conceived of as a series of four books, but poor sales and some behind-the-scenes issues meant that only the first two books were ever released. But over at his Pumpernickel Pickle Press, Marcus Mébès offered to publish a third volume that would tie things up, notably the disappearance of Dorothy. And thus Sky Pyrates over Oz came out last year. This time around, not only do both girls get to go again, Dad comes along, too. Unfortunately, Dad gets turned into a dog pretty early on, but he manages to cope with things pretty well. After adventures on land in The Emerald Wand of Oz, and underground in Trouble Under Oz, this time they take to the air on a visit to a number of flying islands. One of the first places they visit has one of the six snub-nosed princesses from Sky Island as a co-ruler, so you know this won't be easy! Throughout their whole adventure, however, the clouds that have been threatening things in all the books get bigger and darker and more ominous, until Glinda, Ozma, Dori, and Em must finally face the Nightmare Sorcerer, the ruler of the Kingdom of Dreams. And he is both determined and powerful. This was another rollicking adventure, and I'm very happy that a way was found to wrap things up (spoiler: Yes, Dorothy is found). But there are enough hints to a fourth adventure that maybe Em and Dori can go underwater in the not too distant future. Kim McFarland does a great job with the illustrations, taking over from William Stout, and does one thing Stout never managed to do: Give us an illustration of Rik! My biggest complaint about this book is that the titular Sky Pyrates don't appear until the book is well over alf over, and even then we don't see a lot of them, because what little we do see is great. (I won't spoil it by telling you more, except I will say that they are good guys, very much cut from the same cloth as Samuel Salt.) Heck, I'd love to see a story of just their adventures.

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