It's probably my least favorite of the three, but it's still a good read, and I'm glad it was completed. I know the author had some personal problems that caused her to abandon Oz writing and illustrating altogether for a while (at the suggestion of her church, I believe), and I'm not sure what's happening with her now. I know she was apparently unable to finish illustrating the book, so her pictures are mixed in with ones drawn by two other artists. Oddly enough, it looks like two of the pictures for Chapter 11 were taken directly from an Oziana story called "The Forbidden Cave of Grapelandia," which Melody had illustrated. One of these pictures, which shows dragons leading a woman and a dog through a tunnel, works equally well with both stories. I wonder if the text of Zim Greenleaf was edited somewhat to make this picture fit. And speaking of Oziana, the third-to-the-last chapter had previously appeared in a recent issue.
Overall, I don't think the writing is quite as polished in this book as it was in the other two Seven Blue Mountains volumes. I suppose this is understandable, though, and it does become better once it reaches the part set in Cyrune. Much of the book is dedicated to Zim's tying up loose ends from earlier Oz stories, which is enjoyable, although there does seem to be an underlying heavy-handed moralism, which can get to be a bit much at times. For the first few chapters, the plot is basically "Zim and his friends come across a kingdom where someone is enchanted or otherwise in trouble, and Zim helps them." As I mentioned, once the characters reach Cyrune, it becomes more interesting than that. The part of the story that takes place in that kingdom (which was the setting of Thorns and Private Files in Oz, a book that Melody had co-written with Chris Dulabone), the giant forced into playing a chess-like game called Battle of Kipo, and Zim's battle with the Black Druid are probably my favorite parts of the book. Zim's being split into the different components of his personality struck me as a little too cartoonish (I'm sure I've seen that plot on several cartoons, after all), but there were some interesting aspects to it. I liked the idea that Ozian creatures like the Hip-po-gy-raf had been created by joining-together spells cast by evil wizards.
As for the characters, I like Zim himself. He's an eight-foot-tall, green-haired sorceror and botanist with many talents and several idiosyncrasies. On the other hand, his assistant Tip, whose mysterious past had been pretty much covered in the last Seven Blue Mountains book, is often just along for the ride this time. I got a similar feeling from some of the other supporting characters, including the Patchwork Girl, who's much quieter than she usually is. I also wish we could have seen more of Benny, the Canadian gander from Thorns and Private Files. Zim's sister Fern and the villains were also a bit underused, with the wizard Wormfist's defeat happening totally offstage. I kind of wanted there to be more to the fight with the Black Druid, but then, epic battles aren't really the style in Oz books.
Now on to Merry Mountaineer and Hollyhock Dolls, neither of which is very long. I might well finish them both by Friday night, after which I'll probably be concentrating my reading efforts on Harry Potter for a while.
By the way, gas prices have apparently gone up about twenty cents within the past week. I'm sure there's some reason for it, what with world markets and OPEC and the secret cabal that secretly sets the world's prices, but all I know is that it's annoying.