Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sky Pyrates Over Oz

When the Baum Trust announced they would authorize a new series of Oz books, Oz fans were at least interested that there'd be new Oz books coming from a big publisher, but it wasn't as if they'd had a dearth of choices.

Well, the book series didn't quite work out. Sherwood Smith's The Emerald Wand of Oz came out in 2005, soon to be followed by Trouble Under Oz. These books received little promotion, and their handling was a little odd. Sherwood Smith wrote the book, the talented artist William Stout illustrated, the books were packaged by Byron Preiss and published by Harper-Collins. When Preiss died, the third book was left in limbo.

Finally, Marcus Mebes of Pumpernickel Pickle approached Smith about getting the third book out. Turned out, it would be easier than expected. Kim McFarland came on board to illustrate, filling in for William Stout. Smith did some revision so the book would wrap up the loose plot lines in the past two books, and now Sky Pyrates Over Oz is available!

I'd written about the first two books, but it was really brief. I considered re-reading them and doing more proper reviews before this one as a "Smithathon," but wound up with a stack of new Oz reading material, so that's on hold for now.

I'll start off unusually by talking about the art. I like Kim McFarland's front cover better than William Stout's past two simply because it actually shows us the characters of the story. (Stout's elegant and detailed artwork on the past two were pictures of Ozma and Kaliko, which were nice, but didn't really tease much about the story.) However, like Stout, there are very few illustrations, but we at least see all the major characters. The front cover art reveals an unmentioned fact about Smith's main characters Dori and Em: they are of African-American descent. (Smith makes no mention of it, Stout's few illustrations showing the characters were not colored.)

The book opens as Dori and Em go to spend some time with their Dad, but on a balloon ride, they get whisked away to a Sky Island, where Dad is turned into a dog. This begins a series of adventures for Dori, Em and Dad, as they travel through a chain of Sky Islands (turns out Sky Island and Umbrella Island aren't alone), trying to get to their friends in Oz and stay one step ahead of the mysterious Nightmare Sorcerer, who wants to find them.

Along the way, they meet a few of the Snubnosed Princesses, and join up with none other than Scraps, the Patchwork Girl, before joining the heroic Sky Pyrates, who patrol the skies. Soon, with Glinda's help, they're on their way to face the Nightmare Sorcerer and finally discover what happened to Dorothy! (Who's been missing since Emerald Wand.)

While the story is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, it still leaves plenty of options open for future stories. Like the previous two books, Smith writes at a very relaxed pace consistently. Fortunately, unlike Emerald Wand, there's no cases of Dori and Em being stuck in one place for quite too long. Those who like Oz stories that keep up momentum and suspense might be a little disappointed, but the story is nicely done otherwise.

Personally, I wouldn't mind if Smith—and Dori and Em—go to Oz again!

You can order your copy here.


Sam A M said...

I always thought the cover for "Trouble Under" was Ruggedo, the (former) Nome King!

Nathan said...

I get the impression that it's a drawing of Kaliko based on the ones in "Rinkitink," where he looks more like Ruggedo.

Bill Campbell said...

How funny that we would both happen to blog about the same subject the same day! Actually, the cover illustration seems to be closely based on Neill's cover for Ruth Plumly Thompson's Gnome King of Oz.

Jared said...

Ruggedo doesn't appear in "Trouble Under Oz," so I assume it's Kaliko.

It is an odd coincidence, Bill! I finished reading the book yesterday and cranked out a review.