The third book in the delightful and ever so slightly sinister Oz series, following The Wonderful Wizard and The Marvelous Land. It should be noted that this story is mostly set in the Land of Ev, which is separated from Oz by a desert.
Dorothy returns in this adventure, having been swept overboard on her way to Australia. We reunite with some old friends, including the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Saw-Horse, the Tin Woodman and Ozma the ruler of Oz. New characters include Tik-Tok (a wind-up robot), the Wheelers, Princess Langwidere (a very vain woman with a collection of heads), Billina the Yellow Hen, the Hungry Tiger and the Nome King. Although some of the new ones are scary at first, they are all neutralised by the resourcefulness, wisdom and logic of Dorothy and her friends. A large proportion of the plot involves rescuing the royal family of Ev from the Nome King.
My favourite character is Billina, who is brave, loyal and has the sharpest tongue even though she’s only a little hen. Tik-Tok is an interesting character and is apparently one of the first robots to appear in literature. As with many characters in the Oz books, there is room for philosophy and here we have the question of what artificial intelligence is and whether it is alive. I also find the Wheelers intriguing, as their wheels are part of them, like fingernails. It does beg the question of how they manage to get dressed in their elaborate costumes when they have wheels instead of hands! This book also has the innovation of the lunch pail tree, something that would be very handy in real life.
The very creepy film Return to Oz was partially based on this book… but that’s another blog post!
First published in 1907, with wonderful colour illustrations by John R Neill. This edition was from Project Gutenberg.