No Place Like Oz - Danielle  Paige

This is the prequel to the new Dorothy Must Die series, and since it had been published months ago, I figured I'd dive into this one first before starting in on book one.  I'd been looking forward to the entire idea that Dorothy Gale, beloved hero of the Munchkins and the Land of Oz ends up being a terrible, twisted monarch whom a band of revolutionaries have decided need to be extinguished.


If it's one thing I like, it's always a retelling of old favorites with new twists to the story.


An antagonistic Dorothy is an interesting idea that I am all for reading about.  And accordingly, No Place Like Oz details the brief history of how Dorothy ends up turning into a crazy, evil bitch to rule all of Oz in her own insane, power hungry way.  Taking the Oz heroine and turning her into a twisted, magic-wielding usurper was a great idea; a concept worthy of praise.  And then writing a story entirely in her POV to show the progression of her descent into evil-dom...


Yeah.  I'm all over that.


First of all, let me mention that I did enjoy reading this novella prequel and it really puts some things into perspective for the first book of the series (since I've started reading it already).


The story started off rather choppy though and nothing really stood out.  It almost got boring.  Maybe that's because I didn't really like Dorothy -- but not so much because she's supposed to be the antagonist.  She just wasn't a very... interesting antagonist.


To be honest, I'm all for writing an antagonistic main character.  If done well, the reader manages to sympathize even if we know that what this character is doing is all and completely wrong.  However, we somehow manage to be drawn into the "reasons" and the "whys".  We understand even if we don't agree.  There are feels.  There are great feels.


But I can't say I sympathized with Dorothy's turn into darkness very much.  I mean, it's not so much that she turned evil... she just kind of let her inner-brat out to play.


I mean, taking Star Wars for instance:  Anakin Skywalker might have started becoming somewhat of a whiny brat right before he became Darth Vader, but I didn't really think any less of him for turning evil.  He was still trying to be a good man and do right by the rest of the world.  You could feel that he wasn't trying to become evil.  You can even feel those moments when his logic started twisting in on itself and making sense in is own mind.  In fact, I kind of felt sorry for him that he went a little evil-insane and then became a Sith lord when his world (and his doomed romance) started falling apart.  He was an antagonistic main character I managed to sympathize with.


But Dorothy...


I was hoping to see that same villainy through her eyes that would make you understand the reasons why she ended up being an evil overlord.


In the end, all I saw was just a spoiled brat of a teenager throwing a tantrum because she couldn't have the life she yearned to have.  From day one the impression she gave me was that of a child being selfishly absorbed in her own woes and her own need for the things that she wanted, despite continuously narrating to us that she was a good girl at heart.   Constantly behaving and thinking in a selfish, bratty manner and then adding the disclaimer of "I'm not normally like this" doesn't make her any less of a brat.  If you're not normally like that, then stop it.


Things didn't turn out the way she wanted them to:  Her fellow Kansans didn't fawn all over her all the time for her miraculous survival of the cyclone.  Or rather, they did, but she became old news just as quickly and that, of course didn't settle well with her.  Her aunt and uncle didn't praise her for her courageous adventures through Oz and blew off her outstanding stories as a figment of her delusions.  They told her to keep quiet about it and don't tell anyone lest they think she was crazy.  The Munchkins and the creatures of Oz didn't worship her for saving their lands on her previous visit.  Not everyone in Oz knew who she was until she proclaimed to them, "I'm Dorothy Gale, the Witchslayer!"  Her friend, the Scarecrow was no longer the King of the Emerald City, which was completely wrong to her.


If someone didn't approve of what she wanted, then obviously they were the evil ones and they were in the wrong.  This isn't one of those "good hero turned bad" stories.  This was just an evil brat satisfying her inner selfish greed.


She had her own agenda with wanting to have things her way, wanting to remain in Oz, even if it meant forcing her aunt and uncle to stay in Oz with her, despite the fact that they'd made it clear that they wanted to go home.  She took issue with the True Princess Ozma receiving all the royal treatment, since, after all, Dorothy had saved Oz years ago so she should be the one sitting on that throne.


And that's where it all starts going downhill.


If Dorothy had been an honorable and courageous hero, then all of that was left back in the original Oz before she returned to Kansas two years ago.  Starting with the beginning of No Place Like Oz, she was just a brat with a tantrum and a connection to magic.


Dorothy's narration of her "I'm really not a bad person" contradicts her other thoughts of "Why aren't people talking about me more as the 'Girl Who Rode the Cyclone' and giving me more parades?  And where's that reporter who's supposed to gather more information about me since I'm so popular?" and stuff like that.  Basically, her actions really don't help her narration convince me that she wants what's best for everyone and she wants everyone to be happy.  "But this is what I want and I'll be damned if you keep it away from me."


Unless I missed some sort of important transition somewhere, development-wise, her character turned out rather flat and predictable.  I didn't need the rest of the obstacles and the newest trek through Oz to tell me why Dorothy became the way she did.  In the end (and since the beginning) she was just a selfish, greedy bitch.


Maybe it would have been better had I just started with Dorothy Must Die and came back to the prequel at a later time.


Despite my rants about Dorothy, however, I DO want to mention that I enjoyed reading this prequel.  It was written well with great descriptions and great use of creativity for this unique concept.  The world of Oz itself was delightful to travel alongside our characters (even if I didn't really care for them), and I liked the brief history lesson that Princess Ozma gave us about how the land was created in the beginning.


I may not have liked the way any of the characters were depicted (kind of flat, actually, especially Uncle Henry and Aunt Em who kept recycling the same complaints and demands over and over again, so in a way I kind of don't blame Dorothy for getting frustrated with them despite the fact that she could have been a bit more respectful to the couple who raised her), but the story overall was entertaining, at best.





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