Monday, October 16, 2017

Ages of Oz: A Fiery Friendship

Given the current age of self-publishing, an Oz book released by a major publisher is pretty interesting. Enter Gabriel Gale's Ages of Oz: A Fiery Friendship.

Gabriel Gale has been the subject of a featured article in The Baum Bugle, and has featured at Ozstravaganza in Chittenango, New York. I even had someone heartily recommend the book and tell me about his presentation.

Ages of Oz seems to be a potential franchise of books that they plan to branch into film. In fact, it seems it was originally planned to be a film franchise before they decided to make it into a series of novels first. That seems to explain why the book is written by Lisa Fiedler. Story by Gabriel Gale, written by Lisa Fiedler. The series is planned to serve as a prequel, midquel and sequel to Baum's books (Thompson and the rest are ignored).

A Fiery Friendship follows the adventures of young Glinda Gavaria as she sets out to seek her destiny as she seeks how to rescue her mother Tilda from the wicked witch Aphidina and rescue Ember, the Fire Fairy. Joining her are a number of new friends, chief among these Locasta, a girl from the Gillikin Country who she doesn't get along with at first.

I bought this book in late July, and only just finished today. You'll notice that late July was also when I when I posted my last book review here.

Although I realize that I am also a writer of Oz fiction and may have similar criticisms aimed at my work sometime, I'm going to have to say it...

I found the book exceptionally boring. There was nothing particularly interesting about the characters. Yes, I know, this introduces Glinda and Locasta as young women and supposedly sets up how the order of Wicked Witches took over Oz before the Wizard arrived, but besides that, I was left wondering "so what?" Glinda taking on a task that has the end goal to restore Ozma to the throne is basically something Baum established in The Marvelous Land of Oz, and fan interpretation that she may have orchestrated an event or two in Wonderful Wizard is so common, some of my ideas wound up popping up in another work I recently enjoyed by someone who I'd never contacted.

Oz prequels have been quite the trend. I've even thought of a few concepts over the years and even tried to pen them into stories. The one I did complete, The Way of a Lion, actually won an award. However, I wrote that to complement the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to provide a deeper story arc for the Cowardly Lion. The problem with many Oz prequels—including the ideas I've had—is that they try to define how Oz works in a way that limits future stories, or even prevents other stories from taking place in the same continuity. And these ideas are never universally embraced by the fans.

In addition, the story felt like it was the first third of a movie, novelized and stretched out to over 400 pages. A recurring motif that bothered me was splitting a sentence of prose into its own paragraph for dramatic effect, eschewing typical sentence structure. This is fine if you're blogging or writing some piece where you're addressing the reader. In storytelling prose, it's typically not done. It probably bugged me much more because I'd just done a sentence and paragraph structure overhaul of a story a couple of friends wrote.

Perhaps Ages of Oz will go somewhere interesting, but A Fiery Friendship failed to impress me. Okay, the illustrations are impressive, but they don't really feel like Baum's Oz. They're nicely detailed and all, but there's no spirit of fun or whimsy that's a trademark of Baum's Oz. In fact, that's true of the text as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree. There was always a slight goofy humour in the original Oz illustrations by Denselow and Niell. Whether it was the silliness of the houses in Oz having faces or showing the fact that the animals of Oz had personalities like humans. The illustrations in Ages of Oz however, lacked any childlike quality to them, stripping away the magic that the original Oz books had.