By Danielle Paige
Amy Gumm is the other girl from Kansas. She never asked to be whisked away by a tornado and end up on the Yellow Brick road, and yet here she is. But this is not the Oz she read about in school; the landscape is grey, the Munchkins are enslaved and the magic is dying. What happened?
Dorothy Gale happened.
Recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, Amy is given a mission and a purpose: kill Dorothy and bring magic back to Oz.
This book wasn’t bad so much as forgettable. It has a Chosen One and a quest and a love interest and a fish-out-of-water story and a lady rival (two, actually), and a mentor figure who dies tragically, and a twist in the third act, and it feels like it’s ticking plot points off a list rather than telling an organic story.
The characters also feel like they’re ticking personality traits from a list rather than being actual people (Glamora is the exception to this – she was the only character who felt like she had real motivations beyond the ever-pressing presence of The Plot). Amy is your rebellious protagonist who hates everything until she doesn’t, and who goes along with The Plot because she has nothing better to do. To Paige’s credit, the antagonists were appropriately scary and creepy, but without much depth to go with it.
You can’t trust anyone because morality is ambiguous and people aren’t all good or bad (No!!! You don’t say!!! What deep themes!!!). The love interest must show interest in our protagonist but be aloof enough that their relationship can’t be defined by the end of the book. There’s a prophecy that no one bothers explaining, but Amy has to be the Chosen One because this vague prophecy that is barely even mentioned and may or may not be true says so.
The whole theme of morality felt really overdone to me, particularly because Paige keeps going back to Good and Wicked like those are all-encompassing words with no room for nuance whatsoever, and it really feels like she’s trying to make a point about relative morality – that society will ostracize people who don’t follow the rules and call them “wicked” regardless of their actual actions or goals, and that “good” people are only called that because they follow the rules of society but they can still cause a lot of harm. Good is not Nice, Evil is not Dark, and other variations of the trope. I saw Wicked too, Paige, I get it. It’s just not as groundbreaking a point as you seem to believe it is.
And the shadow of Wicked really seems to hover over this book, especially in regards to the themes (those of the play more so that the book), and that’s not a good thing. This is not the first gritty re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, and it really should have done something more to distance itself from its predecessors. Even the villains, which I praised earlier, basically feel like they stepped out of Return to Oz or the film version of The Wiz.
So sorry, Dorothy Must Die; you weren’t exactly bad, but you were derivative and not particularly engaging. Not sure if I’ll bother with the sequels.
P.S. I know this isn’t the author’s fault, but that blurb on the back cover that says Amy needs to remove the Tin Woodsman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, etc.? The reader – and Amy – only find out this information in the last five pages of the book. Way to spoil and confuse readers, Harper.