Friday, November 29, 2019

This Week's Oz Novella

The final tale from Oziana No. 37 (the allegedly 2007 issue, which came out in 2009, hence the odd numbering) is a previously unpublished tale of Magic Land, the Russian counterpart to the Oz books. "Bastinda and the Winged Lion" was written by Sergei Sukhinov, translated by Peter Blystone, and illustrated by Dennis Anfuso. It's a story about the early days of Magic Land, and how one group of Winkies became the People of the Shade, living underground. (These are not the same underground people as seen in the main Magic Land books, like The Seven Underground Kings. Like Oz after other authors took over after L. Frank Baum passed away, a lot was added to the mythos of Magic Land when other writers took over from Aleksandr Volkov.) The People of the Shade then take in a baby griffin, the last of his kind, who is prophesied to defeat an enemy in the future. Then the three witches come along and carve up Magic Land, each taking a domain. Bastinda, the Wicked Witch of the West, takes over Violet Land and quickly subdues the Winkies. When she hears about the griffin, she vows to capture him and hold him hostage for one of the sorcerer Torn's magic books, held by the People of the Shade. She double crosses them, of course. Escapes, battles, and foreshadowing of all kinds of things that are going to happen in future books ensue.

I know the main line of the Magic Land books (the ones by Volkov), but there are so many references to other events and stories that it all got muddled up in my head, and it was hard to keep track of who's who. It didn't help that the first chapter was mostly backstory and history, and things don't properly get started until chapter 2. Bastinda also tends to monologue a lot, explaining her plans or thoughts or reactions in incredible speeches. And it doesn't really come to any sort of satisfactory conclusion, just promises of things that will happen in the future. To be honest, I'm not sure if this story really fits well into Oziana, as it relies too much on the reader being familiar with Magic Land to get the full context. (Then again, most stories in Oziana require at least a passing knowledge of the Oz books and characters, so maybe this isn't quite a fair generalization.)

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