Sigh…this is a review that I feel I have to do but one I really don’t want to do. I really wanted to love this series, because I enjoyed the first book so much. If you want to hear all my positive thoughts for the first book, check out my book review on it that I did a couple weeks ago.
But this week we are doing a full spoiler review for the entire series. I’ve noticed I have a horrible habit of reading the first book of a series and telling myself I’ll read the rest eventually, but I never do. Because I enjoyed the first book of this series, I decided to just read all three of the other books. And I kind of regret I did, because boy were they horrible.
I’m just going to dive into my thoughts about each of the books (the first one will be the shortest because I’ve talked enough about it) and then I’ll talk about my complaints of the series overall. Also, this post will probably be a bit long compared to my other posts, so let’s just jump in!
What happened in this series?
The First Book
Our story starts with Amy Gumm, a girl from Kansas who grew up hearing stories of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Fictional stories, or so she thought. Until one day her trailer park gets caught in a tornado and she gets taken to Oz. Oz is not the same as it was in the story book, as Dorothy has become a cruel dictator along with Glinda, and Amy must work with the Order, comprised of evil witches, to kill Dorothy. That’s the main idea of this series…or it was supposed to be.
As I mentioned in my first book review, I enjoyed this first book. It has some typical fantasy tropes, like the chosen one, and the mentor dies, and a training montage. Amy starts to like her young trainer from the Order, Nox, who was orphaned as a small child because of Dorothy. She goes undercover in the palace after her training to take out Dorothy. Unfortunately, the first book ends were her failing, though Dorothy is hurt and the Tin Man is killed.
While I did enjoy the first book, I had so many questions for the next books. Why did Dorothy become evil? As well as her friends the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion? I wanted to understand the villains more in the sequels. Will Dorothy be killed in the end, or will she become good? What about the Wizard of Oz himself? Where does the power in Oz come from? So many questions! Spoiler alert, few of them were answered by the end of the series.
Now let’s get to the second book in more detail.
The Second Book
There is honestly no point for this book to exist…
Amy is saved by some flying monkeys she helped earlier after failing to kill Dorothy and goes to live with the monkeys and their queen. The Order has scattered. That’s like the first half of the book. Nothing happens. Finally, Amy is sent with Ozma, the real queen of Oz who has lost her mind because of Dorothy, to meet another witch who might be able to cure Ozma. They travel to said witch, Dorothy comes and opens a rift between Kansas and Oz, resulting in Amy and others being sent back to Kansas.
And that’s the entire book. Any progress to save Oz and defeat Dorothy? No. Any more understanding of why things are the way they are in Oz? Nope.
Besides the ending where Dorothy randomly shows up (because a character betrayed Amy, which literally didn’t make any sense for that character to do), no progress is made at all in this entire book. You could have had the ending of this book combined with the ending of the last book and cut out the rest of this book and nothing would be lost except for a few characters who don’t further the plot.
Now we arrive at the third book.
The Third Book
Amy is back in Kansas. I actually enjoyed the first half of this book, and it was giving me strong vibes of what I enjoyed about the first book. Amy must deal with confronting her issues back in Kansas (an ex-alcoholic mother who is now trying to reform her life since Amy vanished and an old school bully who now isn’t so horrible) while trying to figure out how to get back to Oz to defeat Dorothy. I really enjoyed that contrast, as Amy dealt with just how traumatic going to another world is when nobody believes you in the real world, paralleling what happened to Dorothy a century before.
Saying that, this book also introduces the twist I hated most in the entire series: a second antagonist. Up until this point, we’ve got Dorothy and Glinda to contend with. Both are great protagonists, even if they are never developed past their interesting introduction in the first book. But then the Nome King enters. Amy is able to find Dorothy’s original silver shoes which dropped into the endless desert around Oz as she traveled home in the original first Baum book, but there she meets the Nome King (more about him in the fourth book). What is the point of his character? To add more conflict? Not really, because there’s enough of that with Dorothy and Glinda. To make Dorothy more human? In theory maybe, but she never comes across better because he is horrible. Basically, there is no reason he should exist in this series.
So Amy finds the silver slippers, puts them on, and returns to Oz to fight Dorothy with the help of the Order. It wasn’t the best battle, but decent enough, and Dorothy is believed to be dead when the palace in the Emerald City collapses, though Amy herself refuses to kill the severely wounded Dorothy.
And this brings us to the final book…
The Fourth Book
This book…is such a mess.
It has Amy and friends traveling outside of Oz across the desert which surrounds Oz (which is for some reason crossable now…) to go to a neighboring country to find Dorothy and the Nome King (who has rescued Dorothy to marry her so he can seize her magic and then kill her — yes, this is real).
And half the book is told from Dorothy’s perspective. At first, I was excited to see from Dorothy’s perspective to understand her more (even if it didn’t make sense to have another character’s perspective when all three of the first books were told purely from Amy’s perspective). The problem is, her perspective adds nothing to our understanding of her motivations and very little to the plot that we could not have learned from Amy’s perspective.
But that ending! It could have been brilliant, and then the last page fails…
In the end, Amy is able to travel back to the moment that Dorothy killed the Wicked Witch of the West in the original book, and make Dorothy throw the water on herself instead, killing her (which makes so sense, but whatever) and making it so that Dorothy never took over Oz in the first place. Amy decides to go back to her world and Nox, her love interest, goes with her. A happy ending, but here’s my criticism.
The book made it seem like the magic in Oz slowly corrupts people from our world. It happened to Dorothy and though Amy fought against it, at times it overtook her as well. And I loved that idea. Amy choose to go back to Kansas and live an ordinary life because she didn’t want to become like Dorothy and slowly be corrupted. But then the book ruins this great theme on the last page as Amy feels the silver shoes still on her feet tingle, and realizes she has to go back to Oz to help more. So the whole theme that the power of Oz corrupting people from our world is kind of thrown out of the window.
My General Thoughts
This series could have been seriously great. There were a lot of themes which, if developed well, could have made the series a new favorite of mine. I love the idea of power turning people evil, and the idea that those who appear evil are not always that wicked. I liked Amy for the most part. She started as a weak girl bullied in school, but then grew into a fierce fighter. However, after the first book, I didn’t see a great change in her character. After the first book, all the interest built up seemed to shimmer and die. I wanted to learn more about Glinda and Dorothy, to move past their simplistic villain titles, and we never did. I wanted to see interesting twists for villains like the Lion and the Scarecrow, and we never did. I wanted to understand wicked witches like Mombi better and, you guessed it, we never did.
The setup of this series was great with the first book, but then it felt like Paige just wasn’t sure where to go with the story to fill in the chunks until the end. I feel like the first book sets up the ending of the last book perfectly without all the stuff in the middle.
I ended up giving the 1st book 4 stars, the 2nd book 1 star, the 3rd book 2 stars, and the fourth book 1 star. Brutal, true.
I’m really curious if anyone else out there has read this series and what their thoughts are. I’m glad to be done with this series and move on, because it has definitely consumed my last few weeks. Have you heard of this series? Are there any book series you think had great first installments but went downhill from there? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,