Review of Oz Book 6: The Emerald City of Oz (1910)
Moving right along in my quest to read all of the original Frank Baum Oz novels. Here we are at Book 6. To see my reviews of the first 5 books in this series, click the banner above. Otherwise, keep on reading…
Like the last book, I picked up the illustrated eBook of this from the B&N Nook Store for .99 from Eltanin Publishing. They have rendered a beautifully edited and formatted text and kept all the original Neill illustrations intact. I have been supremely happy with Eltanin’s work thus far on the Oz eBooks I’ve read (Books 4, 5 and 6). They are well worth purchasing and you can’t beat the price. Eltanin is slowly working their way through this series. I also picked up book 7 from them. Unfortunately they haven’t released anything further than book 7 but my hopes are high that the rest will come soon. Check out Eltanin Publishing for some really nice eBooks.
So, the last Oz book, The Road to Oz, was released in 1909 and this book was released the following summer in 1910. As I mentioned, John Neill would once again contribute wonderfully detailed illustrations for the book’s interiors. As a side note, John Neill would go on to write and illustrate several Oz books after Frank Baum died.
With this book, Baum had every intention of ending the Oz series. While reading the book, you can easily see that Baum was closing the door on Oz. We had seen him, in Book 5, parade around characters from his other non-Oz books to drum up interest in those with the hopes of sending his fans to his other stories.
With this being “the last Oz book” as Baum originally envisioned, Baum pulled out all the storytelling stops. Instead of telling one story where we follow a group of characters through a fairly land all the way until the end of the book, in this book Baum tells two different story threads and shifts between them. The first story thread involves the Nome King who first appeared back in Book 3. He’s extremely pissed at being defeated by a little girl and her pet chicken. Plus, they stole his magic belt. So, he gathers his army, convinces several more evil and sinister characters in Oz to take up his cause and storm the Emerald City to take it by force. While the Nome King builds this army and plans his attack, the second story thread involves Dorothy returning to Oz to ask Ozma to allow her and her Aunt and Uncle to live there permanently. The cyclone from Book 1 has destroyed their Kansas farm and the land is about to be taken over by the bank. Ozma agrees and sends Dorothy and her Aunt and Uncle on a carriage tour throughout the countryside of Oz. Along the way, Dorothy learns of the impending attack on the Emerald City and tries to return in time to warn Ozma.
Honestly, I enjoyed the last two books, but I was getting a little tired of the same formula. This multi-threaded story was a breath of fresh air. Baum really wrote it well and I like the idea of a group of characters like the nomes who actually hate Oz and the Emerald City just because they are so damn happy all the time. Some of the unsavory characters recruited by the nomes to fight are very cool and interesting (called Whimsies, Growleywogs and Phanfasms). They are very powerful and evil enemies and every race plans to double cross every other race once the Emerald City is under their control.
At the very end of the book, Ozma decides that she must protect against another invasion and decides to completely cut off Oz from the rest of the known world. And, as the conceit Baum used to write these books was that he was receiving letters from Dorothy telling him these tales, this “cutting off Oz” idea presumably shut the door on future stories. So thus the series presumably ends.
I really liked this book. It’s a really good Oz story despite half of it using the same formula used in the first six books. The other half is a departure featuring the “evil characters” amassing an army and planning to attack the good guys. This made the whole book seem fresh and new and Baum’s writing in these books is getting noticeably better. Not that it was bad before, but you can tell he’s becoming a better writer as these stories move forward. Too bad it all ends here.
But, obviously, it does not end because there’s still a metric ton of other books in my little checklist below. Baum would indeed return to Oz, but not for another three years.