The God-Machines of Oz

Over the course of the Oz series, L. Frank Baum introduced quite a few magical items that should give our heroes almost limitless power. These include the magic picture, which allows Princess Ozma, ruler of Oz, to see what’s happening at a given time anywhere in the world, and Glinda the Good’s great record book, which automatically records absolutely every event taking place in the world all the time. And here I thought Santa’s book listing all the naughty and nice children would be enormous! In Book 11 of the series, The Lost Princess of Oz, Baum asks what would happen if these items, which he’s used to create some deus ex machina endings, disappeared along with Oz’s ruler. What transpires is an entertaining quest story as Dorothy and many of her friends seek the lost Ozma.

As soon as Dorothy discovers that Ozma is missing, she gathers characters from many of the Oz books to search high and low through the land to find out who captured the Princess and absconded with the magical items. Not only is the picture gone, but so is the Wizard’s magical bag of tricks. Four parties go on the search. The book largely follows Dorothy’s party, which is the largest. Betsy Bobbin, Button-Bright and Trot join Dorothy, the Patchwork Girl, the Woozy, the Wizard, the Cowardly Lion, and the Sawhorse on a sojourn to the Winkie Country. A suddenly talkative Toto joins the party as well.

Meanwhile in a remote part of the Winkie Country, Cayke the Cookie Cook discovers that her solid gold dishpan has also disappeared. This proves a terrible tragedy, since she can no longer make the awesome cookies she’s known for. So she sets out with the wisest man … er, frog in her part of Oz, the Frogman, to go find out who stole her dishpan.

This feels like one of those books that Baum wrote to please all his fans. He tries to work in every great character from the ten books before this and he actually does a pretty respectable job. I admit, I found myself cheering a bit when Cap’n Bill appeared and was left in charge of the Emerald City while everyone was away. The only person I really missed was Pollychrome, the Rainbow’s daughter. Not only does this book give us a return of many favorite characters, the new characters are just as memorable as the old. I couldn’t help but smile every time Cayke the Cookie Cook appears. We meet a race of sentient Teddy Bears and our villain has the unfortunate name, Ugu the Shoemaker.

As the novel progresses, we learn that Ugu has gone on a mission to capture all of Oz’s magic for himself. And yes, while I think making really awesome cookies ought to be considered a God-like power in its own right, it turns out Cayke the Cookie Cook’s dishpan has powers she didn’t realize. As befits a novel about a power-hungry man trying to control all the land’s God-machines, he’s undone by one that he didn’t know about because it came from a land outside of Oz.

All in all, The Lost Princess of Oz proves to be an enjoyable tale, if a bit unwieldy at times as all the characters vie for the spotlight. This wouldn’t necessarily be a good book for a first-time reader of Oz to dive into, but it’s a great book for fans looking to spend time with old friends.