Somewhere in an ocean not far from the Land of Oz there is an island called Pingaree populated by peaceful people whose main occupation is to collect pearls. They accumulated quite a bit of wealth by selling them to nearby continental kingdom of Gilgad. One day the King of Gilgad named Rinkitink paid a visit to the islanders. The guy turned out to be quite jolly and fat (think Santa Claus). In fact because of his weight problems most of the time he moved around riding a talking goat Bilbil. The goat constant grumpiness balanced King's jolliness nicely. The famous modern Grumpy Cat has nothing on Bilbil when it comes to being grumpy:
So everything was fun and games until warriors from northern islands came to loot and pillage. Loot and pillage they did. After they left carrying back wealth and prisoners to make slaves all what was left on the island were complete ruins, the prince Inga overlooked by the conquerors, Rinkitink who fell down a well, and Bilbil who looked so old and skinny nobody even thought about slaughtering it for meat.
Now it is up to Inga armed with three magic pearls and his accidental followers to rescue his parents and his people.
The previous 9 books of the series settled into a comfortable, but repetitive pattern of the following plot. Some people/creatures ended up in an unusual place, they travel around trying to get to a civilized lands, meet unusual creatures and see other unusual places. Finally Ozma or Dorothy take pity of them and bring the travelers to the Land of Oz; the (happy) end. Imagine my surprise when I realized that in tenth book the pattern was finally broken.
First thing I noticed was smoother writing style; I really like the description of the island kingdom. The overall tone became much darker than in the previous installments quite fast. Both Bilbil and Rinkitink said some things that the intended audience - young kids - would not understand. This was probably the first time during my reading of the series when I became curious about what would happen next.
The suspense held for about three quarters of the book. At the end L. Frank Baum realized he needed to tie the tale to Oz somehow. So in about three chapters before the end he brought Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz in. You can practically hear them kicking and screaming because they really do not belong
So a darker and more complicated tale than usual, interesting characters, but bolted on ending yield 4 stars as a final rating. To be honest it might be closer to 3.5 stars, but I was taken from the blind side by unexpectedly adult themes of the book, so I rounded the rating up.