(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Title: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1)
Author: Danielle Paige
Length: 452 pages
Publication: March 31st 2015 by HarperCollins
Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a road of yellow brick—but even that’s crumbling.
What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas. I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I’ve been trained to fight. And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart. Steal the Scarecrow’s brain. Take the Lion’s courage. And—Dorothy must die.
‘Dorothy Must Die’ is written in first person present with the narrator being Amy Gumm, a teenage girl from Kansas. Her life is plain, dismal, and un-extraordinary. As a result she relies on snarky comments and expects the worst from the world around her. Even so, she holds hope that the future could get better. It’s this hope that gives her character a strong voice to narrate the book.
Pacing: The book builds slowly. It doesn’t plunge directly into the main plot. Instead it gradually introduces the characters and elements that will play important roles later on. The story builds on each one, weaving them together before bringing to light the main plot. Even then, the story continues at a leisurely pace. Many sub-plots are brought to light and eventually intertwine in the end to bring this first book to a close.
World: Since this story is based in Oz, the world is that which exists in the classic story, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, with a few tweaks. The new world has been stripped of its magic. Therefore it’s disheveled, broken, and decrepit. It’s in terrible condition and doesn’t hold anywhere near the wonder that Oz once held, but that’s the whole point of the story. In this case, the world is built very well. It really lends a hand in telling the story and pushing the plot, often times contrasting what used to be the splendor of Oz and what it looks like now.
Writing: The style of writing used in this book is precise. It clearly paints a picture of what’s happening and explains the feel of magic in a way that’s easily understandable. It also gives plenty of insight as to how the world looks. It describes each part of the world with enough detail for the reader to fully imagine and immerse themselves in the world of Oz.
Non-Spoilered Plot: The concept for the book is unique and fascinating, taking an age-old tale and putting a fun twist on it. It’s not a retelling of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ so much as a sequel to the original story. Additionally, the tone of ‘Dorothy Must Die’ is much darker than Dorothy’s original tale. As such, it takes a classic fairy tale and changes it into something with a little more realism, a lot more world-building, and plenty of misdirection, which keeps the reader guessing the whole book through.
Character: Amy Gumm is a teenager who’s used to being picked on and having bad things happen to her. As a result she’s defensive, confrontational, and can’t keep her mouth shut when it would behoove her to do so. While fine in small doses, her snark quickly turns from bold and spunky to annoying, especially when she fails to grow out of it over the course of the book. Additionally, Amy remains the same pessimistic, rash teenage girl she was in the beginning except for gaining the ability to fight and wield magic. Her narration, while insightful of her thoughts, becomes intrusive during peak points of the novel.
Plot: The book starts off in Kansas following Amy Gumm, a teenager who lives in a trailer with her alcoholic mother after her father left for another woman. Amy wants nothing more than to run away. However, a tornado picking up her trailer and whisking her off to Oz wasn’t exactly what she had in mind, which is why the only thing she wants once there is to return back to Kansas. Of course, the only way to do that is to visit the Wizard in the Emerald City.
Though, as Amy begins her trip down the road of yellow brick, she finds Oz much changed. It’s not the beautiful, wondrous, and magical place she watched come to life on TV. Instead, it’s destroyed. Canyons slice the land in two, and the small villages are vacated of their Munchkin inhabitants, and it’s not just that. The characters from the story are different as well. This is made apparent when the Tin Woodman, a grotesque mismatch of spare parts, places Amy under arrest and hauls her off to the Emerald City all because she released a flying monkey who had been tied upside down as a form of punishment for his crime of sass.
Dorothy, however, is the most changed of all. Gone is the sweet girl from Kansas who wanted nothing more than to go home to her family. Before Amy is a skimpily-dressed, power-hungry, magic-crazy woman who demands attention and respect and, most of all, to be One of a Kind, which is why she quickly sends Amy to prison for crimes of treason. Yet, before that trial can take place, a Wicked Witch rescues her. The witch, Mombi, believes that Amy is the only person who can save Oz. After all, Amy is the only other person besides Dorothy to come from the Other Place. Therefore, she must be able to understand and take down Dorothy once and for all. She must do this so that the magic, which Good Witch Glinda is forcing Munchkins to mine from the land to give to Dorothy, can be returned to Oz and restore it to its former glory.
Even with this belief, Amy has a lot to learn from the gaggle of witches who call themselves ‘The Order of the Wicked’, including magic skills, fighting skills, and etiquette. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of time. Safe for now in their mountain fortress, it won’t be long before the Lion reaches them and, instead of waiting for that to happen, they take the fight to him. It’s in this moment that the Lion’s alterations become known as well. He’s overly muscular, rash, and drinks the fears of his victims to make himself stronger. Naturally, he must be stopped. Yet, the witches are too weak and Gert, Amy’s magic teacher, dies trying to stop him.
With the loss of Gert weighing heavily on their shoulders, they send Amy into battle, which means disguising her as a maid named Astrid and sending her into Dorothy’s castle to try to get close to her. Of course, nothing is that easy. While Amy is in the castle she finds out that the Scarecrow, who experiments on people to make them into hybrid tinmen for the Tin Woodman’s army, is working on a top-secret experiment that involves a flying monkey named Maude. She’s the sister of the monkey Amy saved earlier. So, naturally, she helps rescue her from the Scarecrow’s workshop.
Additionally, the Wizard of Oz, who, like Dorothy, should no longer be in Oz, shows back up out of the blue and dangles mysterious secrets before Amy, which he hides within his vague words. A gardener named Pete is constantly popping in when he feels like it, offering more vague words and no answers. All of this adds to her confusion and frustration. Meanwhile, The Order of the Wicked seems to have all but abandoned Amy in the castle, not communicating to her in the slightest or ever telling her what she’s supposed to be doing. After all, they never told her the whole plan before tossing her into the fray.
So, when the Order of the Wicked shows up unexpectedly at Dorothy’s party and tell her that now she has permission to kill her, it all runs amok. She misses both of her chances to kill Dorothy, one of which sends her plummeting towards the ground after she jumps off a tower with Dorothy in her arms. Unfortunately, Dorothy vanishes with the help of her magic shoes, leaving Amy to die. Yet, Amy is saved by the two monkeys from earlier. It turns out that the monkeys are in cahoots with the Wizard, who happens to be in cahoots with Pete, who just so happens to actually be Ozma, the half-fairy, true princess of Oz before Dorothy took over.
Yet, despite having failed to kill Dorothy, Amy manages to yank out the Tin Woodman’s heart when Glinda sends him to do her dirty work. When that fails, Glinda comes herself to kill Amy. Thankfully, the Wizard knows a little magic himself and wards her off while the monkeys sweep Amy and Ozma off their feet and whisk them off to safety.
As they fly away Amy glances towards the melee happening in the Emerald City and immediately thinks about Nox, the magic boy with no memories who was raised by The Order of the Wicked to be the perfect soldier and whom taught Amy to fight. Even though he shows little emotion and gives hardly any sign of being interested in her, the two develop feelings for each other. They even shared a single kiss before he sent her through the mirror into Dorothy’s castle. Yet, her feelings for him felt as artificial and forced as her desire to help ‘The Order of the Wicked’, which leaves my rating for ‘Dorothy Must Die’ at three stars.