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The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige

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The Wicked Will Rise: 10/12/18

The Wicked Will Rise

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige is the second of the Dorothy Must Die series. Having failed to kill Dorothy on her own, Amy Gumm is now recruited into the Revolutionary Order of Witches. Their goal is to take charge of Oz again.

Now this whole series hinges on the idea that the Oz before Dorothy is the best Oz. Utopia in the sense of an extremely good place, rather than utopia in the original use of the word — a no place. The Oz under Dorothy's rules is a dystopia — or a bad place.

At the start of the Oz series, the rulers of Oz were missing, leaving the balance of power shared between two "wicked" and two "good" witches and one "humbug" wizard in the centrally located city state, the "City of Emeralds" (which later was just referred to as the Emerald City).

By the end of the second book, Oz was under the rule of the reinstated royal family, in the form of a daughter, Ozma. The "wicked" witches were both dead and now under the watch of the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman.

By the end of the sixth book, Dorothy and her aunt and uncle had immigrated to Oz at Ozma's invitation. Dorothy was made a Princess of Oz — implying a very close relationship with Ozma indeed. Through book eleven, The Lost Princess of Oz there was no sign of a rift between Dorothy and Ozma, nor any sign of Dorothy vying for more power or using magic beyond the few magical items she used with Ozma's permission and supervision. Finally, if anything, Oz is shown to have risen to a utopia through Ozma's rule.

The other thing Paige's series hinges on is the return of Ozma's male self. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, most of the novel takes place from the point of view of a pre-pubescent boy named Tip who manages to escape from his captor, Mombi. It's later revealed that he is really Ozma, having been transformed into a boy to hide his existence.

But... later in the series, Ozma related that her father and her grandfather were also kept prisoners of Mombi and didn't manage to escape. As Mombi is never maternal towards Tip nor is the word mother ever uttered as part of her character, I suggest that Ozma and her father are transgender. It could even be (to explain the presence of the father the Wizard spoke to in the Emerald City, and the father captured by Mombi) that Ozma has two father — one of whom was capable of having children.

Instead of addressing any of these inconsistencies, Paige decides to just make all the "good" characters bad and make the "wicked" characters the heroes. She also decides that Ozma's male past is a separate entity who wants to live his life and is therefore breaking out whenever Ozma's concentration is down. To keep this fact a secret from fans who might have read the original series, he's going by a new name, Pete.

All these inconsistencies aside, the thing that bothers me most about Paige's Oz is how magic works. She describes it as something that's derived from the land (a rather Arthurian approach) and something that is controlled through mental acuity. Oz magic in Baum and Thompson's books doesn't work that way. Witches are witches because they own magical items and know how to use them. They also know how to brew magical recipes but even these recipes require magical words to work. Since it's the items that are magical that work with magical words, anyone in possession of the magical item can make it work if they know the correct words. Even then, some magical items have limits — for instance the crown that the Wicked Witch of the West used to control the Winged Monkeys; it only had three uses before being useless for a person.

So Paige's Oz isn't Baum and Thompson's Oz. It may be populated with people who share names and traits of their Oz but it is at best, a parallel Oz.

In terms of the road narrative project, this second book is a FF6666, or an orphan returning home via an off-road route. The book ends on a whopper of a cliffhanger that unites Oz with Kansas. More on that in my discussion of book three, Yellow Brick War.

Three stars

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