Review by Frank Plowright
Dorothy Gale just seems to have a talent for tipping up in strange lands after natural disasters, and after her disastrous sea trip in Ozma of Oz, this time it’s an earthquake that opens the ground beneath the wheels of the carriage she’s riding with her second-cousin Zeb. They find themselves in the glass city of the Mangaboos, who’re not the friendliest, but thankfully a very tense moment is diffused by the arrival of Oz, the actual Wizard of Oz, last seen departing Oz in a hot air balloon. And Dorothy’s cat and Jeb’s horse are suddenly able to talk.
The title doesn’t quite indicate the way the story goes. For much of it Dorothy, Jen and Oz aren’t actually in the land of Oz, but it otherwise follows much the same pattern as L. Frank Baum’s other Oz stories. There’s the introduction of imaginatively strange creations and the plot is largely a shaggy dog story connected by individual incidents. The glass structures grow, the Mangaboos are living vegetables, and Dorothy can walk on air.
After three previous books by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young there should be no doubts about a faithful and creatively drawn adaptation, but this is another book where colourist Jean-François Beaulieu comes into his own. Baum’s descriptions over early chapters are very colour-oriented, and he delivers what to our eyes are strangely coloured objects and vegetation without making it seem a psychedelic dream.
Among other wonders supplied are an invisible race, a manufacturer of holes, wooden gargoyles and dragons. While the fate of the others remain uncertain, Dorothy is confident that the arrangement made in Ozma of Oz means Ozma will soon check in on her and rescue her from any danger. However, until then she’s grateful for the Wizard’s common sense and trickery.
Oz is reached during the sixth chapter, which should form a natural ending, but Baum’s a meandering writer, and under a compulsion to please his readers by ensuring the favourite Oz characters put in an appearance, which makes for a prolonged epilogue. It’s extended even further by a farcical trial, but no-one would expect anything other than a happy ending, and so it proves.
Immerse yourself in Baum’s magical imagination and the episodic nature of his stories are remarkably well transferred by Shanower and Young, but they may meander a little too much for some. Road to Oz continues the series.
This is also combined with Ozma of Oz in a joint pocket-sized edition, or with all the rest of the Shanower and Young Oz collaborations as the Oz Omnibus.