Friday, July 30, 2010

A Refugee In Oz

With print-on-demand publishing, hundreds or thousands of books become available each year. As this is an economical way to get their work out there, many Oz fans now choose it to share their Oz tales. However, as with all print-on-demand titles, it's a mixed blessing. Amazing writers may finally share their talent in stories that large publishers would not find so marketable, but on the other hand, there are some stories that come out that would have been best left unpublished. Anyone can write enough text to fill a fair amount of pages and feel that earns them the title of "author," a title some feel should not be given so lightly.

And so we come to A Refugee In Oz by Kim McFarland. Although she illustrated the book, the cover is by Lar DeSouza, and shows comical characterizations of Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, and the Scarecrow being flown over what appears to be the Deadly Desert, lifted by a strange blue fellow in a white robe. I don't normally note the cover or illustrations, but I felt this was a great, appealing cover!

The story begins innocently enough in the Emerald City, with Dorothy and the Scarecrow going to visit the Tin Woodman on his "sort of" birthday, the anniversary of when he became completely tin.

Then, we shift to a hidden city in the Deadly Desert, protected by a glass globe. The people who live here are the Madou, a race of short, blue-skinned people. When their village is invaded from below by the Nomes, a young Madou named Kokoro flees across the Deadly Desert for help!

Well, we can guess who he runs into, and of course, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman lend their aid, as well as sending for more help from the Emerald City.

And now, sadly, I can't say any more, because the story really starts to get even better! While the plight of the Madou could have been expanded into a whole book (and they are such an interesting race that I would not mind reading more about them), the author wraps their story long before the end with a shocking twist that no other Oz book I've read has dared to do. (Not even Gregory Maguire!) This twist leads the characters and us, as readers, to truly re-examine the characters and natures of two of the most beloved Oz characters. While some readers have realized this, it is even more powerful when they come to realize it themselves.

And now I'm speaking so vaguely that I'll lose you if I don't stop...

The author's illustrations, inspired by John R. Neill's classic depictions of Oz, are excellent! Kim uses fine lines and details to depict her Oz in a beautiful fashion, making it cheerful, scary, or sad. Well done!

As you can see, I've already called Kim McFarland an "author," so it's clear where I think her talents are. A well written, thought-provoking, and readable story with excellent illustrations, under an attractive cover to boot? What are you waiting for? Go get this book!

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