People familiar with the first six books of the series might think it is all fun, rainbows, and unicorns in the Land of Oz. There are some not-quite-nice places, but they are isolated and their inhabitants never go outside of their designated area. The local population lives in what seems to be Communist Utopia. Well, guess again: the book starts with a young Manchkin boy Ojo who is about to starve as his only food was the last load of bread. Bummer, and I had such high hoped that the Communist Utopia would work at least somewhere
The little guy lives in a remote place with his uncle who is a descendant of the former disposed King of the Munchkin country. It seems to me they do not much like former kings and their kids for the generations to come in the magical land; add another blow for Utopia. Having nothing to lose the pair goes to see the world and the first place they end up is their closest neighbor, the Crooked Magician who was about to start an interesting magic experiment. Unsurprisingly things go terribly wrong and now it is up to Ojo to restore his uncle and the magician's wife back to life while the magician was developing an alternative method - a very slow one.
In the beginning I seriously considered giving this book 4 stars. L. Frank Baum decided to finish the series with the last book; there was some finality as well as closure. Bowing to the pressure (readers, publishers, monetary, or all of them) he wrote this book which feels like a fresh start in the beginning. Some of the humor of the first book finally made a comeback:
It is classical music, and is considered the best and most puzzling ever manufactured. You're supposed to like it, whether you do or not, and if you don't, the proper thing is to look as if you did. Understand?
I do not think anybody would disagree with this observation, even more than 100 years after it was made. As an additional bonus: the Scarecrow got himself a girlfriend.
On a slightly negative note they added poetry talent to the Patchwork Girl when they made her so the readers have to suffer through a lot of bad poetry, mercifully short every time.
The second half of the book is where it all started going downhill - the closer to the end, the faster. Ozma, for all of her supposed sweetness and sense of justice feels quite cruel to me. When you think about it from an adult point of view she acts like a puppet for Glinda the Good; and the latter is quite despotic in her methods. Add to this Tim Woodman's overdoing his whole compassion thing - well into retarded territory - and the rush ending and you would understand why the idea of completely abandoning the series came to my mind.
The final rating would not be a complete surprise: 3 stars. I will still continue with the series.