In my efforts to reread the main core Oz books, after finishing The Emerald City of Oz last time I had a dilemma. Do I continue with the next major fantasy novel Baum wrote, since it later dovetails into Oz? Or go to the next Oz book? Then it hit me: There were two non-Oz books up next. There were two Oz books before the two series merge. So, why not read both? So yes, this time around I'm reading both The Sea Fairies and The Patchwork Girl of Oz, next time it will be Sky Island and Tik-Tok of Oz, and the two series will meet down the road at The Scarecrow of Oz. (This has also got me thinking that I should also throw in Baum's non-Oz books into my reading mix, which I may just do.) Anyway, to finally get to the book, The Sea Fairies is, as I'm sure you know, the story of Mayre "Trot" Griffiths, the daughter of a California sea captain, and her boon companion, retired peg-legged sailor Cap'n Bill Wheedles. Cap'n Bill expresses disbelief in the mermaids, seeing as how nobody who has encountered one has lived to tell the tale, so the mermaids overhear this and invite them underwater for a visit. The mermaids give them mermaid tails and use some othre magic to allow them to exist underwater, and then they're off! The first half is just a travelogue, with Trot and Cap'n Bill seeing the sites. There's so much to see, however, and it's all so new to not only them but also the reader that most people don't really notice, or care. In the second half, however, when they are captured by the terrible Zog, that's when things get interesting. Zog has created a whole underwater kingdom, unknown to the mermaids and King Anko, so while the book takes time to explore that as well, we also get a battle of wits and magic between Zog and Queen Aquareine. Cap'n Bill uses his savvy to help tip the odds in his friends' favor, but it proves to be all for naught. Only the timely deus ex machina intervention of King Anko saves the day, but I'm not sure how else this adventure could have ended.
This first adventure with Trot and Cap'n Bill is interesting, if not always exciting. And Zog may be one of the most frightening and powerful villains Baum has ever created. What took me out of this as an adult reader is how much we have learned about the ocean in the more than a century since this was published. Even though they are in some of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean, for instance, they get a regular cycle of sunlight and darkness. But we now know just how quickly the oceans become dark, and there's no way they would have natural sunlight down there. I'm sure Baum also created a lot of the sealife Trot and Cap'n Bill encounter, but if he could have incorporated some of the creatures and phenomena discovered in the last century, that might make for a pretty amazing book, too. But all in all, it was fun visiting this book again.