Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: NO PLACE LIKE OZ (novella) by Danielle Paige

The book DOROTHY MUST DIE was just released at the beginning of the month, and it’s been getting all sorts of buzz. Before reading it, though, I downloaded the prequel novella, NO PLACE LIKE OZ, onto my Kindle. So many authors of series have jumped on the novella/short story bandwagon lately, releasing eBook stories of what happens before or in between the books. Since DOROTHY MUST DIE is a Full Fathom Five book (part of James Frey’s book/movie/tv packaging company), I’m not surprised it did this. Gotta be as commercial as possible! (I’ll talk more about Full Fathom Five in a minute.)

In DOROTHY MUST DIE, our girl from Kansas has somehow found her way back to Oz and taken over, becoming an evil dictator of sorts. This prequel novella explains how she got there. The story picks up two years after that fateful tornado that brought Dorothy to Oz. Now Dorothy is sixteen and wholly unsatisfied with her life in Kansas. She’d wanted to return home so badly, but now she struggles to remember why. Farm life isn’t exciting or magical, and Kansas life seems gray and boring compared to Oz. Not to mention, no one believes her story about the Emerald City and the Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch of the West. In Oz she was a hero. In Kansas she’s just a girl.

When a pair of bright red shoes appear under her bed on her birthday (with a note signed “G”), Dorothy knows what to do. Three heel clicks, and she finds herself transported back to Oz, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in tow. But Oz is not how she left it. A young princess named Ozma has taken over, claiming she is the rightful heir to rule Oz. And Glinda is missing. Suspecting this new princess might know Glinda’s whereabouts, Dorothy sets off to find her, dragging her reluctant aunt and uncle along.

At approximately 200 pages, this novella a pretty good deal ($1.99 on Amazon). The story arc is pretty complete, and we are able to see Dorothy’s transformation. I was able to empathize with her throughout. Even though I did not always agree with her choices, I understood her motivation. We also get to see some Oz lore, like how the land was created. I’m interested to see how the small pieces we see in NO PLACE LIKE OZ will tie into DOROTHY MUST DIE. I’m pretty sure there is a decent time gap between the end of the novella and the beginning of DOROTHY MUST DIE, so there are still plenty of secrets to discover.

I’m not sure how crucial the novella is to the central plot of the novel (you could probably get by without reading it), but I enjoyed it as a standalone story as well.

Now, onto the Full Fathom Five debate. I recently found out that this series (there are going to be at least two more books) is the brainchild of James Frey’s Full Fathom Five corporation (click here for an in depth article about his “writer sweatshop”) No doubt, the idea is slimy and makes me cringe. Lists of FFF have cropped up on book blogs, urging readers to boycott these books, as most of the money goes right into Frey’s pocket, even though he didn’t do much of the actual writing. I AM NUMBER FOUR is probably the most well-known FFF book (I’ve never read it), but DOROTHY is generating some buzz. Many book bloggers and BookTubers are boycotting it, refusing to give Frey any extra money or publicity.

You can probably figure out I’ve bought the book. And part of me does feel really icky when I look at the copyright page and see it copyrighted to Full Fathom Five instead of Danielle Paige. But honestly, it sounds like a good story. And the person who wrote it (whether her name is actually Danielle Paige or not) deserves some credit for that, because writing is HARD, especially when Frey only pays you $250 up front. So I’m going to read DOROTHY MUST DIE for the story, and I’m going to try reeeeally hard not to think about how the story came into existence.

Thoughts on the Full Fathom Five debate? Will you read DOROTHY? Any opinions on this new novella/short story craze?

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