The wonderful land of Oz: New science fiction and fantasy

via GIPHY

Welcome to this our February selection of recently acquired science fiction and fantasy titles. This month, to celebrate the release of Wicked author Gregory Maguire’s latest sortie into the world of Oz, we present to you a short piece on this magical land in literature and beyond.

The first book to journey to the marvellous land of Oz was L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, released in 1901. The book was an instant runaway success from the start, quickly selling out its first edition of 10,000 copies and undergoing numerous reprints, often under the title The Wizard of Oz. This success quickly spawned a hugely successful early musical stage show in 1902 and a further thirteen additional Oz books by L. Frank Baum followed.

The land of Oz has of course a long and magical legacy in film as well as literature, from the classic 1939 live-action film to The Wiz — a 1970s musical financed by Motown records and by Universal Pictures and starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor as the Wizard, set in African American culture.

All of which brings us to the modern cultural phenomenon of the Wicked book series and the unstoppable globetrotting multi-award winning musical that is also soon to be released as two major Hollywood movies. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire is the first in the hugely popular series of books that reimagine the Oz story. The other books in the series are: Son of a Witch,  A Lion Among Men and Out of Oz. There is also a Wicked sequel trilogy consisting of The Brides of Maracoor , The Oracle of Maracoor and the newly released The Witch of Maracoor. As well, there’s also a Wicked childhood prequel called Elphie: A Wicked Childhood, due out in October 2024.

Baum himself cited writer Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm as influences on the book.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been described by the Library of Congress as “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale”.

Incidentally the stories have become such an important part of American culture that the Ruby slippers from the 1939 movie are now housed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.

Below is a link to The Witch of Maracoor and our other selected titles for this month.

The witch of Maracoor : a novel / Maguire, Gregory
“Following a confrontation with her reclusive great-grandfather, the one-time Wizard of Oz, Rainary Ko — the granddaughter of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West — has re-upped in a mission to settle a few scores and right a wrong or two. Her memory and her passions reviving, Rain turns her gaze back to her native Oz. Though the Grimmerie, which she had cast into the sea, retains its arcane power over her, the lover she left behind in Oz proves no less haunting. Traveling companions and arrivistes can befuddle a young witch coming into her own, but Rain marshals a steely determination to stare her troubles in the eye and see who blinks first.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Witchwood Knot / Atwater, Olivia
“The faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal him back. Victorian governess Winifred Hall knows a con when she sees one. When her bratty young charge transforms overnight into a perfectly behaved block of wood, she soon realises that the real boy has been abducted by the Fair Folk. Unfortunately, the lord of Witchwood Manor is the only man in England who doesn’t believe in faeries-which leaves Winnie in the unenviable position of rescuing the young lord-to-be all by herself. Witchwood Manor is bigger than its inhabitants realise, however, and full of otherworldly dangers…” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook – The Witchwood Knot

The atlas complex / Blake, Olivie
“Vulnerable to the lethal terms of their recruitment, six Alexandrians grapple with the ethics of their astronomical abilities while the outside world mobilizes to destroy them, forcing them to decide what they’re willing to betray for limitless power and who will be destroyed along the way.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook The atlas complex.

Iron flame / Yarros, Rebecca
“Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College — Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky. Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s gruelling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is — unless she betrays the man she loves…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eAudiobook – Iron Flame.

After the forest / Woods, Kell
“After the Forest is a dark and enchanting fantasy debut from Kell Woods that explores the repercussions of a childhood filled with magic and a young woman contending with the truth of ‘happily ever after’. Ginger. Honey. Cinnamon. Flour. Twenty years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Their mother and stepmother are long dead, Hans is deeply in debt from gambling, and the countryside lies in ruin, its people starving in the aftermath of a brutal war. Greta has a secret, though: the witch’s grimoire, secreted away and whispering in Greta’s ear for the past two decades, and the recipe inside that makes the best gingerbread you’ve ever tasted. As long as she can bake, Greta can keep her small family afloat…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A river of golden bones / Mulford, A. K
“A sleeping curse. A fallen court. A secret twin. Twins Calla and Briar have spent their entire lives hiding from the powerful sorceress who destroyed their kingdom… and from the humans who don’t know they are Wolves. Each twin has their own purpose in life: Briar’s is to marry the prince of an ally pack and save the Golden Court. Calla’s purpose is to remain a secret, her twin’s shadow… the backup plan. No one knows who Calla truly is except for her childhood friend — and sister’s betrothed — the distractingly handsome Prince Grae. But when Calla and Briar journey out of hiding for Briar’s wedding, all of their well-made plans go awry…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The ashes & the star-cursed king : a Crowns of Nyaxia novel / Broadbent, Carissa
“Love is a sacrifice at the altar of power. In the wake of the Kejari, everything Oraya once thought to be true has been destroyed. A prisoner in her own kingdom, grieving the only family she ever had, and reeling from a gutting betrayal, she no longer even knows the truth of her own blood. She’s left only with one certainty: she cannot trust anyone, least of all Raihn. The House of Night, too, is surrounded by enemies. Raihn’s own nobles are none too eager to accept a Turned king, especially one who was once a slave…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The chatelaine / Heartfield, Kate
“In 1328, Bruges is under siege by the Chatelaine of Hell and her army of chimeras – humans mixed with animals or armour, forged in the deep fires of the Hellbeast. At night, revenants crawl over the walls and bring plague and grief to this city of widows. Margriet de Vos learns she’s a widow herself when her good-for-nothing husband comes home dead from the war. He didn’t come back for her. The revenant who was her husband pulls a secret treasure of coins and weapons from under his floorboards and goes back through the mouth of the beast called Hell…” (Adapted from Catalogue)