Monday, April 12, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Purple Prince of Oz [Book Review]

[Contains spoilers for a book nobody reads anymore.]

"The Purple Prince of Oz" [published in 1932] is the 26th book in L. Frank Baum's Oz series and the 12th written by author Ruth Plumy Thompson. Although the book does have some fine points, which I will mention, it ultimately falls short of the mark due to some unfortunate habits from the author.

The story follows the adventures of Randy the Gillkin, Kabumbo the Elegant Elephant of Oz, and Jinniky the Red Jinn of Ev on an adventure to save the kingdom of Pumperdink from an evil fairy who wanted to rule it and... just basically be mean to everyone.

Great start, but what happens once these characters begin their journey is pretty much where the book goes extremely stale. Let me tell you about Ruth. She likes to toss her characters into these random situations as they travel around Oz. In the past few books, she kept much of this to a minimum, but this book went a bit too far.

Ruth will chose some random theme and the then make a little pocket-sized kingdom based entirely around that one idea. For example, in "The Purple Prince of Oz" the characters come across a place where all the inhabitants are living torpedoes. And when they talk, they are loud and explosive and hurt the ears of the characters having to listen to them. They are forced to stay there as prisoners, having to put up with the difficulties of being there until they can find a way out.

All the random encounters in Ruth's books happen in this way, and they are never fun for either me or the characters. They are not done in a "horror" sort of way. They tend to be silly but in a manner that come across as annoying, and the majority of this book is unfortunately like this.

The bad portions cover about 75% of the book and then proceed in a fairly acceptable manner, and the entire book really isn't bad. The characters were well represented. Randy, a small Gillkin boy, comes across as calm and brave while still having this quirky childlike aspect to him. Kubumpo the Elegant Elephant is a returning and charming character who has a personality intended to be larger than life [including his ego.] Jinniky the Red Jinn has been briefly mentioned before, but you really get to know him here. He reminds me much of the genie from Disney's Aladdin.

One pleasant surprise [as well as my favorite part] was the introduction of Ozwoz the Wozard. Wizardry is illegal in Oz unless approved by Ozma or Glinda. Ozwoz felt he had found a loophole by calling his magic wozardry, thus allowing him to practice magic. What makes him so amazing is that he is a sociopath who has no qualms about killing people.

He created giant, gun-wielding soldiers and tried to get them to murder the main characters. The Red Jinn had to quickly use his own magic to put up a shield right before the soldiers blasted away with their rifles. It was such a big attack that the large ammunition would have destroyed them utterly, which was the point.

When Ozwoz realized that he had failed to kill them, he became fascinated with his intended victims and quickly wanted to become friends with them. He took them to his place and treated them to food and hospitality. Although rattled by his murderous tendency, the characters soon learned to like him for how charming he was. Ozwoz was easily the most interesting character in the story, but he was only there for a couple of chapters and never mentioned again.

"The Purple Prince of Oz" is not a recommended read. Although its overarching story was decent and the characters were fun, the amount of fluff in this particular book is just inexcusable. I'll be hoping for better in the next one.

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  1. You can find the good even in the things you think are bad. That is the most important trait for a critic. It gives your critiques objectivity. Yeah, Ozwoz sounded very interesting. He was a squandered supervillain, to be sure.

    1. I have a funny feeling he won't ever show up again. That is a real shame.

  2. Shame that this story was a disappointment. Interesting though that Ozwoz tries to befriend those who are not killed by his antics, it's sorta like a test of merit. All the beginnings of a good book seem to be there but too bad she fell into formulaic habits.

    1. A friendly sociopath. It worked strangely well.

  3. A story can be made or broken by a single character. Without them, the tale would be utterly forgettable. Yet, they add that one bit of seasoning which makes the rest tolerable.

    1. In this case the characters were fine. It was the encounters that were crap.