Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

*This review does contain some spoilers.*

“I didn’t know what was worse: to have your shot and screw it up, or to never have had a shot in the first place.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsWhen your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I’ve been given a mission:

REMOVE
The Tin Woodman’s heart,

STEAL
The Scarecrow’s brain,

TAKE
The Lion’s courage,

And then—

DOROTHY MUST DIE.


Feelings: This story had a lot going for it. Spunky main character (whose name doesn’t seem to really fit her), plot twists, and some added zest to a story we thought we knew. However, a lot of that potential hit the fan early on. What was really weird, though, is that the questions I had and the plot elements that were throwing me off got somehow rationalized by the characters in the end. It’s like the author was writing and she started to see plot holes and decided that it’s easier to explain them away, rather than go back and fill them.

For a while, I wasn’t really sure what we were building up to. New realm and making new friends along the road. Scratch that. Recruited into a secret Order and learning about all of Oz’s drama. Moving on. Secretly living in the palace and waiting for a chance to strike. End of book. Mixed in with all of that were issues with her mother and the bully from her school. The pacing of the story was kind of up and down, making it hard to track what the point was. I think each piece was interesting and added value, I just wish it had been pieced together better.

Issues: My first issue is actually with the synopsis above. We don’t find out that Amy has to steal the heart, brain, and courage until the last few pages of the book. Why is that part of the synopsis for this first book??

That common YA thing where characters instantly accept change happens here in spades. New world? Cool. Learning magic? Whatever. Being forced to murder a stranger? Rolling with it. No one telling her the master plan? *shrugs*

Ugh. Instalove. Not only was it a cool learning magic and training scene that was ended by a pretty gown and a cute boy, but the cute boy is super shady. Kiss me. Don’t kiss me. Be angry at me. Now be concerned about me. I have zero interest in Nox. And the fact that Gert thought Amy would need a love connection in order to fight for them is stupid. Why couldn’t she want to fight because SHE wanted to?

The author dumbed things down for the reader sometimes. She’d make a reference, then add in its definition or explain it. It became annoying and threw off the flow of the story.

Finally, the title is Dorothy Must Die. The synopsis tells us that she has to die. Twice the story builds up to Amy being told that Dorothy needed to die. And multiple chapters end with this same “revelation” that she would have to die. We get it already.

Characters: Amy is SO not an Amy. I don’t know what that means, but all I DO know is that I’ve never read a character that seemed so disconnected from their name before. She fit the name Astrid more than Amy. At some points, she seemed to fit back about what was mysteriously expected of her and follow her own instincts, then other times she was just what the Order wanted her to be. By the end of the book, I wasn’t completely sure I knew who Amy was. Then again, I think she was struggling with her own identity.

Nox is confusing. I really didn’t care for him at all. He was too hot and cold for me. (See issues above.) And Pete? First of all…Pete?? What’s with the names in a magical realm? I was really interested in who Pete would turn out to be and honestly had no guesses, which is rare for me. Talk about a plot twist. Like a weird, confusing plot twist that’s making me reexamine my feelings.

The Order was a strange cast of characters. We had these older, more experienced witches with their own specific abilities, then these younger magical ones who we knew very little about and seemed to pop up out of nowhere. The whole ground just felt disjointed. I wish the author had explained how the magic worked a little more. That might have helped to understand this group dynamic.

 

Final thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I’d previously almost picked it up multiple times, but decided against it for some reason. It could have been far more interesting than it was, but it wasn’t awful. I think if you’re a fan of the original story, this twist may be interesting to you. I probably won’t continue on in this series, though.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.85/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 3/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsCatherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Feelings: The thing about prequels and retellings is that you know where they’re going to end up. You kind of like Cath until you remember that she’s going to end up as the bad guy in Alice’s story. I thought Meyer did a great job of weaving in some references to Alice’s world here and there. We met some familiar characters, as well as some magical items with a twist.

Issues: I didn’t understand Jack’s role in the story. He was a super childish dude who clearly (but maybe not?) hated Cath. Was it love-hate? Or just straight up hate? I don’t know and he really doesn’t serve a purpose. It seemed like he would a couple of times, but then nothing would come of it. Not a big issue for me, since he’s a nobody character…but I just felt like something was important about him and I was wrong.

The dream magic wasn’t ever explained. Cath would wake up from dreams with lemon trees and roses growing around her bed…why? Was it because the Sisters were speaking to her about her fate in her dreams? Not really sure.

Finally, the pacing was a bit slow. I read it really quickly and it was easy to follow, but it was just a slow moving story from time to time. But then the ending felt rushed and one scene in particular felt like it came out of nowhere. It made me feel a little disjointed.

Characters: Catherine is an imperfect character. We knew where she was headed since this story serves as a prequel. We knew that she wouldn’t be a Cinderella kind of character, always cheerful and full of optimism. She’s even a bit judgmental and selfish from time to time, which makes it so that her turn towards evil isn’t completely out of left field. If she was Snow White-y or Cinderella-y, it wouldn’t make sense and it’d be hard to buy in to. But that’s just not the case here. She was actually pretty relatable for a while, big dreams and a drive to see them through, yet there was a series of obstacles in her way. I think Meyer made a strong creative choice with the story’s ending. It all makes sense and we can see how she got from Point A to Queen of Hearts.

Oh, Jest. What a love interest. Was this classic YA insta love? Meh. Sort of. It wasn’t like the “I just met him and his eyes are amazing and I want to marry him” kind of insta love, more like insta strong feelings. They did go back and forth one too many times for my taste, but then again…it was a pretty complicated situation.

The minor characters in this story were an interesting cast. You have Mary Ann, Cath’s partner in crime. They seem like sisters for the majority of the book, even though one serves the other. Then you have Cath’s parents, with the classic pushy gentry mom and the generic laid back pushover dad. There’s the king; the kind but stupid king. Where are everyone’s back bones? Where’s the courage and the guts? This book has an entire kingdom of people with their blinders on, in need of a leader. Enter the Queen of Hearts, ready or not, I guess.

Comparisons: I know a lot of people want to know how this book compares to The Lunar Chronicles, but really…there’s no comparison. Cinder and her friends get a lot more page time, a lot more room for character development and possibility. This book is a standalone, so what’s done is done. If you’re a fan of TLC, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like this story, especially if what you enjoyed most was the science fiction element. That’s just not a thing in this book. Meyer’s writing shines through, though, just like it did in TLC. Plus, the tones of the two stories are totally different. So that’s my two cents when it comes to comparing.

Final thoughts: If you’re not a huge fan of Wonderland like me, don’t be put off by this story. I really enjoyed it, even though I never could connect with Alice or Through the Looking Glass. Too much whimsy loses me, but Meyer does a great job of balancing the story that already exists and taking creative license. Overall, I liked this book. I wasn’t just super crazy about it, but I generally enjoyed it. My advice: don’t read it on an empty stomach. There’s talk of baked goods on every page.

Pick this up if you liked:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Goodreads rating: 4.14/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn