Welcome to the world of Amy Gumm; a teenage product of a broken home, whose Dad left for a younger wife and better life, and whose Mum after a nasty accident is left with a substance abuse problem, addicted to alcohol and painkillers. Amy, child with ‘un-tapped potential’ has become a target for the girls with stable homes (with one and a half bathrooms) who relish in getting her in trouble, whilst taunting her about her ‘Salvation Army’ clothes and tin home with wheels (well blocks anyway! Amy dreams of a new exciting life and escaping the humdrum Kansas behind.
After an altercation at school resulting in her suspension, Amy ends up at home in the ‘Dusty Acres’ trailer park with a tornado heading her way. That is when Amy’s dream comes true; as she, Star (her mother’s pet rat) and the trailer are picked up by the tornado and put down in a very different world.
‘ “Welcome to Oz,” the boy [Pete] said, nodding, like he expected I’d figured that out already. It came out sounding almost apologetic, like, Hate to break the bad news. ‘
Being from Kansas, Amy knows all the trials and tribulations that befell Dorothy according to the book and film, but nothing prepares her for Oz. The land in the stories is a vast contrast to what she discovers when she arrives in the Magical realm.
‘ …a vast field of decaying grass stretched into the distance. It was grey and patchy and sickly, with the faintest tinge of blue. On the far side of the pit was a dark, sinister-looking forest, black and deep. Everything around here seemed to have that tint to it, actually. The air, the clouds, even the sun, which was shining bright, all had the faded, washed-out quality to them. There was something dead about all of it. ‘
It’s not long before Amy discovers that Oz is dying, with magic being mined out of the ground, by enslaved Munchkin children, under the watchful eye of Glinda and the ruling hand of Dorothy.
“She [Dorothy] was wearing the dress, but it wasn’t the dress exactly- it was as if someone had cut the familiar blue-checked jumper into a million little pieces and put it back together again, only better. Better and, okay, a lot more revealing. Actually, more than a little bit… Instead of Farm-girl cotton it was silk and chiffon. The cut was somewhere between haute couture and French hooker.”
As world wise as Amy may be at home in ‘The Other Place’ her lack of knowledge about Oz and the strict rules and laws imposed by Dorothy and enforced by The Tin Woodman and his fearless metal army soon get her captured. At Dorothy’s mercy, Amy is put to trial with her fellow Kansassian serving as judge and jury and she soon learns of her imminent execution.
But Amy isn’t without allies and a visit from the mysterious Pete is quickly followed by jail break instigated by the powerful witch Mombi. Amy is taken to one of Oz’s remaining magical havens and introduced to the ‘The Revolutionary Order of The Wicked.’ The Order comprises of the remnants of Oz’s Wicked witches, who have formed an alliance to protect Oz with one goal; to kill Dorothy. Mombi, Gert, and Glinda’s twin sister Glamora along with teenage wizard/warrior Nox, enlist Amy and train her in the arts of magic, etiquette and combat, creating their own assassin from Kansas.
The mission is simple; Amy must kill Dorothy. Yet despite the evil that Amy has witnessed Dorothy inflict on others it isn’t until she infiltrates the palace at The Emerald City under the guise of a maid, that she really sees Dorothy’s cruelty first hand easing any concerns about the morality of her mission. But Oz is always changing and nothing is as it seems. Dorothy and her entourage are formidable.
There’s Glinda, the witch who enslaves children, and reaps the land of magic, letting nothing stand in her way even her twin, who she disfigured. The Lion, a mutated mussel bound creature who commands an army of savage beasts, who feed on peoples fear and toys with people mauling them for entertainment. The Scarecrow, and evil scientist who experiments on living beings, grafting people and metal to make the tin-man’s legions and draining the brains of others to inject into his own to further increase his intelligence. And the Tin Man, a vastly ungraded efficient killing machine, with a warped obsession with Dorothy.
If that wasn’t enough to worry about, Oz’s true ruler, the fairy princess Ozma, sees through Amy’s disguise, and the infamous ‘Wizard of Oz’ seems to know her true identity too. Will Amy have what it takes to stick to the task at hand? Or will one of Dorothy’s subjects betray her?
‘Dorothy Must Die’ is a fast paced, mysterious tale that has dark undercurrents.
This book has effectively used the darker elements of Baum’s world to create a yarn with depth and intrigue. Paige has taken great care to imitate Baum’s world of Oz in accurate details and draws from the extensive set of characters from his original series of books. The main antagonist in Baum’s Oz Sequels is the witch Mombi, she is a driving force in The Revolutionary Order of The Wicked, and Oz’s creator and ruler, the fairy queen Ozma, is also present as Dorothy’s subservient co-throne-bearer. The Gnome King gets a mention and Paige makes great use of the Flying Monkeys. But it is Dorothy and her friends that are truly spectacular, as they are a darker, twisted take on Baum’s originals, familiar enough to be instantly recognisable but being so mutated they are truly terrifying.
Amy is a plucky and sympathetic protagonist, coming from a humble and troubled beginning but with an inherent moral sense that creates personal conflict as she battles the morality of her mission. She develops throughout the book from wanting to escape her mother to missing her, along with becoming a strong independent young woman, but with just the right amount of teenage angst especially when it comes to the strong and attractive romantic interest Nox.
‘Dorothy Must Die’ is an exquisitely written and intricately plotted story that effectively recreates the world of Oz in a refreshing and modern way.
However, this is a YA, and unlike Baum in his own words wrote the book to be..
‘a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmare are left out.’
Dorothy Must Die has lashings of both heartache and nightmares!