[Contains spoilers or an old book nobody reads anymore.]
"Ojo in Oz" is the 27th book in Baum's Oz series. It was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson and published in 1933. You may remember that my last Oz book review was not a very nice one. I stand by it though. "The Purple Prince of Oz" was a pointless mess of a book, but I held out some hope that the next one would be better. I am glad I continued!
Ojo is a character that had not really had much of a role in the Oz universe since waaaaaaay back in "The Patchwork Girl of Oz--that's number 7. Yes, Ojo finally comes back twenty books later, and how wonderful he was this time around!
Ojo is actually a Munchkin boy whose past was never really well developed by Baum. The interesting thing about Ojo is how truly un-incredible he is. He is just a boy. He naturally prefers the color blue, because that is the color of the Munchkins. However other than that, he is a pretty standard boy.
In this story, he has a few sudden and rather exciting things happen to him. Right off the bat, he is captured by gypsies who want to sell him to someone who put a price on his head. He makes friends with a very friendly bear named Snufferbux. He is stolen from the gypsies by a highwayman named Realbad, who also wants to collect the boy's bounty.
By the way, Realbad is a lot of fun. He is a swashbuckling and witty robber who actually has a good heart, despite his name. He has a ring that keeps him protected and offers one of them to Ojo. He is brimming with confidence and never shies away from danger in any event. He loves to fight, and he is constantly leaning into danger, or bored otherwise.
The collective of characters in this story came across as extremely organic. Everything really fit well, and you don't really get to know why that is until the very end. It's like one of those situations where you sense connections but you don't exactly know what the connections art yet. Ruth was very clever to write it in this manner.
I also noticed that she seemed to be employing some techniques I have seen in more epic style fairy tales. There was a grittier feel to this one. Even when things got goofy, everything felt more grounded. There were even J.R. Tolkien style dwarves present, although they had this really weird obsession with unicorns for some reason.
I actually don't want to completely spoil this one. I just want to put forth that the story is worth a read. It does end very well. Ruth gave Ojo a story that Baum neglected to do, and I was perfectly fine with the one she came up with.
If I have to make a complaint, I'd say that some of the small encounters in the story, although genuinely interesting, seem to happen more as filler. An example would be about this great bird that appears when someone blows on a specific whistle. The bird was really intense and surprising, but it only happens once and is never mentioned again in the book. I found myself wondering about the origins of the bird, but the silly boy lost the damned whistle!
I recommend "Ojo in Oz," not just because it is a vast improvement on the previous story, but it is, in its own right, a very heartwarming and exciting adventure consisting entirely of resident Oz characters this time around. That includes Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, by the way. They came back for this one, and it was a whole lot of fun to see them again. Enjoy!
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