Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: The Disenchanted Princess of Oz

In 1986, a new Oz publisher broke onto the scene: Chris Dulabone with his small imprint "Buckethead Enterprises of Oz." Intended to be non-profit, the imprint brought out new Oz stories, meant to flow with the continuity of the Famous Forty Oz books. Oz stories by Dulabone and other writers came out, and were of varying quality, but all had definite respect for the original Oz stories and made for fun reading.

In 1995, an elaborate-looking volume was published by Buckethead, titled The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: The Disenchanted Princess of Oz by Melody Grandy. Not only did Melody write the story, she also designed it, illustrated it, and took care of the cover design. The final result is a pleasant-looking Oz book.

The book opens with Princess Amalea of Lostland awakening from a nap in the royal garden. ... At least, she was Princess Amalea. To her surprise, she is now a boy! Unrecognized, she .... uh... he, I should say, must leave the palace. He's forced to go to Oz, where he takes the name Amadin, but most people wind up calling him "Dinny" for short.

Dinny arrives in the Seven Blue Mountains, where he meets Maggie the witch, who, when he tells her he's been transformed from a girl, she checks her magic mirror to make sure. The mirror reveals Dinny is in his natural form. So what happened?

One day, Dinny finds a tunnel, and curious, he follows it. However, he gets lost, but finds his way into a beautiful but mysterious garden. Eating a berry he finds, he suddenly shrinks to a tiny size. Talking to insects and other animals that live in the garden, he learns it has a sole caretaker, a man named Sim. Or Zim. (Dang praying mantis, couldn't pronounce S or Z properly.) Eventually, Dinny gets a message to Zim, who finds him and restores him to his proper size.

Zim, however, is quite an unusual character himself. Green-haired, lanky, and about eight feet tall, he seems friendly enough to Dinny once he has explained himself.

Zim, however, wasn't a new character for Melody. She'd "written" about him earlier. But not in a story. More like this:
Yep, he'd appeared in a text adventure! A text adventure that's a bit tricky to get running and even trickier to "win" properly. (A feat I've yet to accomplish.)

Dinny takes an interest in Zim's work and Zim takes him as an apprentice. And now I can't tell you much more because the rest of it should really be read to be properly enjoyed.

The book is very episodic, one or more chapters tell a story that are associated with our main characters. (In a recent blog, I mentioned the episode with Faraq, a man who becomes glass.) If you really don't enjoy episodic stories, then you might not like this one. However, I had no problem with it. (Mr. "I've read Magical Monarch of Mo and Life and Adventures of Santa Claus so many times.") Anyway, aside from that, I really can't fault Melody's writing. While she only just barely brings in established Oz mythos in, she doesn't contradict it either.

Melody draws from a number of the Famous Forty Oz books. You might think Dinny's story sounds familiar, and there is a reason for that. And if you think shrinking because you ate a berry sounds familiar, the berry had the name micromorphosa pessim. I suppose to fully enjoy reading Disenchanted Princess, you'd have to have read the Famous Forty, but I guess one could enjoy it well enough after reading just Baum's.

And would I recommend it? Yes. It's a great big story, spanning seventy-five years, and Melody's artwork is incredible! So, yes, go ahead pick it up.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I bought this one when it was still fairly new, and it was definitely one of my favorite apocryphal Oz books.