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Book Review – Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Next up on the cyclone, whirlwind of variation and fun is the first in a fantasy series inspired by the classic Frank L Baum story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it’s Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

“I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. Butdorothy when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? 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.”

I picked this up on a recommendation from a friend,  I will admit that I was pretty skeptical, I’m aware that there are more than a few classic fairy-tale inspired YA books around at the moment, and as such didn’t believe many of them could actually be good. There is a saying for that; don’t judge a book by it’s cover. How very wrong I was. The premise is simple and pretty standard among teen fiction: heroine doesn’t fit in at home, somehow ends up in faraway land and is apparently the chosen one who will save them all. She’s just an ordinary teen, but she’ll do her best and free this land from the evil oppressors! In this instance the oppressor is a well known heroine, once the subject of her own, similar, plotline. Dorothy got a taste for power after exposing the Wizard, and never looked back. However this is not just another forgettable YA novel. The protagonist is self-aware enough to be entertaining and not a stereotype, the fact that she has actively made an effort to stand out in the ‘real world’ by dying her hair pink makes her a more likable character than those heroines who constantly remind us of their desire to spend their lives in the shadows (I’m looking at you Bella Swan).

I spent much of the first half of this book making educated guesses as to the outcomes of the various subplots and character mysterious I’d encountered. I was enjoying the story but having read a few books of the same vein before, I felt I knew where this was going and was becoming frustrated that it should be so predictable… until I was thrown a curve ball. It was so nice to read back through my notes and to realise how wrong I’d been. Nothing is as you expect and there are some twists you really will not see coming. The parallels with the source material are all there of course, the friends and enemies of the real world making cameo appearances as the reincarnated friends and enemies in the new world, Amy has even taken her faithful pet along for the ride, although this is for the modern, edgier audience, so it’s a rat. But they are there in a way that is almost an in-joke with the reader, a reminder of the past, and a way for us to feel more at home in Amy’s world. It’s quite effective.

It’s so nice, every once in a while, to be taken completely by surprise by a book. I didn’t expect to like this book but I went in with an open mind and found that I loved it. I was so engrossed I finished it in a matter of days and cannot wait to read the next in the series, because of course it is a series. An excellent concept, well executed. It was fast paced, had interesting characters and a truly hateable villain; Dorothy is a total b****. 4 stars for unpredicability.

4/5 ****

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