A week or two ago I reviewed Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It’s the first in a series of books that take place several years after the original Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum. It reimagines Oz as a place in serious peril where Dorothy has returned but she’s changed. She’s become obsessed with magic and has essentially usurped Ozma as the ruler and with the help of Glinda starts literally strip mining Oz for magic. It’s an interesting enough premise and the author really digs in and reuses characters from the books in very interesting ways that made me want to continue the journey into this Oz.
Aside from the main books in the series, Paige has written a series of novellas that act as prequels to the books. I went to my local library and I found the very first collection of novellas called Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1.
This book contains the first three prequel novellas; No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns. I didn’t really know anything other than the titles going into these but I was intrigued. Mostly by The Wizard Returns since that character is very cagey in Dorothy Must Die so I was very interested to hear how The Wizard got back to this particular Oz and what his agenda may be.
The first novella, No Place Like Oz, is very Dorothy-centric. It’s also the longest one by about 100 pages. It picks up with Dorothy a few years after her original return to Kansas from Oz. It’s her sixteenth birthday party. We see that Dorothy is sort of unhappy as many people think she’s crazy with her ramblings about a fairy magic land with talking lions and people made of tin. Even some of her friends don’t believe her. Plus, Dorothy is finding out that life on the farm in rural Kansas is not as exciting as it was in Oz. Once you’ve encountered magic, nothing else can really live up to it. So we see this Dorothy, who’s become a little bitter because no one believes her about Oz, even her friends. Plus she sort of enjoyed the fame that her disappearance caused in Kansas and once that started to fade she began resenting her life there. After her birthday party ends embarrassingly bad, Dorothy shuts herself up into her room and opens a mysterious gift to find a pair of red, high heeled ruby shoes. She puts them on, clicks them together just as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry walk into her room and transports all three of them to Oz.
This is the gist of the story. Dorothy is back in Oz, this time with Em and Henry. She meets Ozma and reunites with her old friends. And being back in Oz, instead of making her happier, starts to enhance some of her feelings. You see her obsession with magic really take hold. It’s a really good story. I feel like Paige made the reason that Dorothy sort of turns bad believable. It’s not a 180 with no explanation. It makes a bit of sense. And you get to see the setup for Dorothy as we find her in Dorothy Must Die.
The next story, The Witch Must Burn, is told from the point of view of Jellia Jamb, the head house maid in the Emerald City. She plays a fairly big (and ultimately important) part in Dorothy Must Die. And Jellia’s story here is really a vessel to tell the story of Glinda and her possible future plans for Oz. You also get to see a bit of just how horrible Dorothy has become, but it all leads to Glinda “borrowing” Jellia from Dorothy and what happens to Jellia because of this. I was not expecting this story but it was a good read.
Like I said, the third and final story is really the one I was most interested in. The Wizard Returns starts off with the Wizard leaving Dorothy at the end of the original Wizard of Oz. The hot air balloon he’s in crashes and we see him land in the very same poppy field that Dorothy was trapped in. Fast forward twenty five years and The Wizard is awoken and he has no memory of himself or his past actions. This particular story started off a bit slow, but the back half really saved it. You still don’t really 100% know The Wizard’s agenda by the end, but you know what happened to him before the events in Dorothy Must Die.
All three of these stories are honestly good and do a great job of setting up the world we see in Dorothy Must Die. However, I thought my favorite story was going to be The Wizard Returns, but honestly, I think it turns out being No Place Like Oz. I’m glad I read this collection. There is another set of prequel novellas that take place after this. They are about Dorothy’s friends; Heart of Tin, The Straw King and Ruler of Beasts. However, I’ll probably get the full sequel novel The Wicked Will Rise and read it before delving back into these prequel novellas.
I guess the ultimate question with these prequel novellas is, should you read them before or after you’ve read Dorothy Must Die. It could go either way but I’d recommend reading them after DMD. They fill in the world of the books and I feel like you may want the basis of the full novel first before the novellas. But I think if you did the prequels first and then DMD, it would honestly still work.