Nathan (vovat) wrote,

In which Nathan writes way too much about Oz, AGAIN

Okay, I just finished reading Philip John Lewin's The Witch Queen of Oz, and I have a few thoughts on it. I'm sure most of you won't be interested in reading this, but I'm going to write it anyway. {g}

This book deals largely with the distant past of Oz, including Lurline's enchantment of the country, and the origins of the Wicked Witches, the Silver Shoes, and the Water of Oblivion. Some of these subjects have been addressed in other Oz books, often in quite different ways. For instance, Paradox in Oz gives a different account of the Water's origins. Phil Lewin admits in his introduction that his story isn't necessarily consistent with others. The Oz books have inspired a lot of fan-fiction, much of it actually published (albeit often by very small presses). It's unlikely that any one author has read everything else out there, and even if they have, they're not always going to want to maintain consistency with them. There have been several attempts at creating a basically consistent timeline for Oz stories, including the Historically Accurate Chronological Chain, and the more recent Royal Timeline of Oz. It's pretty much impossible for there to be complete consistency, though, as much as some of us might desire it.

Anyway, Witch Queen was a good read, which incorporated elements of the distant past into a more traditional Oz story. I liked the description of the Cave Home civilization, the giant flying tortoise, the Bowman's arrow, and the Wizard of Oz and Glinda's sojourn in the United States. It was also nice to see Sky Island again, this time with a much friendlier Blue Country. There was even a brief appearance by the former Boolooroo and his snubnosed daughters. The defeat of Enilrul was somewhat anti-climactic, but I did enjoy what happened to her afterwards. It tied up several loose ends quite nicely.

One long-debated issue that was addressed in the story was that of Dr. Nikidik. I'm sure anyone who hasn't read that Oz books has long since stopped reading this, but just in case, I'll give a brief explanation. In The Land of Oz, it's mentioned that Mombi received the Powder of Life and other magical accessories from a certain Dr. Nikidik. On the other hand, The Patchwork Girl of Oz has a magician named Dr. Pipt saying that he gave the Powder to Mombi. There have been several proposed explanations for this, with some people thinking that Pipt and Nikidik are the same person, while others prefer them to be two different guys. Witch Queen goes with the latter explanation, and I liked the visit to Nikidik's cave. The episode does seem overly brief, but so are many confrontations in the official Oz books.

While it didn't actually affect the plot, I didn't particularly care for the explanation of the odd communities that are inevitably encountered while travelling through Oz. I've seen it proposed before that such communities appear and disappear pretty much at random, and that's basically what Phil Lewin says in Witch Queen. I haven't discounted the possibility that this might sometimes happen, but, in general, I prefer to think of Oz as being pretty consistent in terms of geography. When I read about a community of living utensils, or people who climb up and down stairs all day, I prefer to imagine a history for this community, rather than simply dismissing it all with, "Well, they appeared out of nowhere, and they'll probably disappear if anyone goes back there." Granted, sometimes the only real explanation is magic, but there are different types and levels of magic. I'd imagine that the magic required to, say, place a curse on a city so that everyone has to spend all their time on their stairs would be somewhat less miraculous and more feasible (at least within the established rules for Oz) than just having the whole city appear out of nowhere with people intact. I guess that's just how I prefer to look at fictional universes, though. I like there to be a history for everything.

I think the book could have used a little more editing. While distributed by Books of Wonder, it was actually published by a tiny press, most likely run either by the author himself or someone he knows. So I can see it not having received a professional editor's touch, but the amount of typos was still a bit much for me. There were also a few mistakes, especially when the book recounts the destruction of the Wicked Witches of the East and West. The Munchkins are said to have thrown the Eastern Witch's body into a well, which would actually have been unnecessary, since the first book says the smashed Witch dried up into dust. Then the Western Witch is described as having been dissolved "by accident...when the Witch had set the Scarecrow on fire," an incident from the MGM movie that didn't even happen in the book! There's also an encounter with Ruggedo that doesn't really fit in with the time period in which the story takes place. There's a hasty explanation for this, but I don't think it works very well.

Anyway, I know the author's e-mail address, so I might well ask him about some of these issues. Good book overall, though.
Tags: books, oz

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