Saturday, August 12, 2017

Novella Review: The Straw King (Dorothy Must Die #0.5)

Release Date: November 10, 2015
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 97 pages
Source: Library Audio Book

Once upon a time, the Scarecrow's only wish was to have a brain. This digital original novella is the fifth installment in the prequel arc to the edgy and thrilling New York Times bestsellers Dorothy Must Die and The Wicked Will Rise and follows the Scarecrow after he finally gets his wish.
In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow received the gift of a brain from the Wizard and was appointed the new ruler of Oz. In The Straw King, the Scarecrow's tale takes a crooked turn when his reign is threatened. With faith in his newfound wisdom shaken, the Scarecrow will turn to anyone who can help—even if others have their own interests at heart.
The Straw King by Danielle Paige is a dark and compelling reimagining of a beloved classic and is perfect for fans of Cinderby Marissa Meyer, Beastly by Alex Flinn, and Wicked by Gregory Maguire.



Protagonist: When I went into this novella, I expected it to largely take place around the same time as Heart of Tin, and show how the Scarecrow, here nicknamed Scare, became twisted by the gift the Wizard imparted upon him at the end of The Wizard of Oz. Let's just say I was partially right. Scare starts out as a very sympathetic character, he just wants to be the best ruler that he can be. This, Scare thinks, involves a lot of reading. However, when a rag tag group threatens his rule and marches to overthrow the Emerald Palace, slaughtering whoever gets in their way, Scare needs to figure out how to be a good leader and fair ruler. That sounds like a nice, semi-typical, story, but what this character goes through is a bit different. The darkness in Scare comes out softer than with Tin in the previous novella. With Tin, he pretty much started out with his heart being twisted by obsession, with Scare, he more begins to doubt whether his gift even works. With a little push from a particular "Not-So-Good" witch, he'll find just how cunning he can be and what he needs to do to get what he wants. I really liked the development of Scare, don't get me wrong he's in no way a hero, but I liked seeing how knowledge and cunning slowly corrupted him. There were a couple key moments from his development from Straw King to Mad Scientist, but the bits we did see and the development that was shown was very intriguing and compelling.

World Building: This story takes place only a couple years after what I'm just going to call the source material from now on. Anyway, this story does expand Baum's world with Paige's vision as we learn more about the history of Oz, as well as a certain group of all female soldiers who believe that their leader would make a better leader than Scare and use brutal tactics to find a way to take over Oz. While we do see this world expanded a bit, it's honestly not much. This is a very character driven story, but we do get a glimpse into Glinda's master plan and see that she's been working at it for a while.

Predictability: I have to say, while I knew this story would be about the corruption of the Scarecrow, I was not prepared for the surprises and twists that this story holds. Granted they aren't game changing twists that will have lasting consequences in the main series, they're bits in pieces of the story that fit together in ways I wasn't expecting them to.

Ending: As for the ending of this story, well, it wasn't quite the ending I was expecting. I loved seeing how this story came together and how smaller storylines in this series entangle into an amazingly complex web. As this story winds down we learn more about Glinda's master plan, as well as Scare's. Scare has a lot of thoughts in his head, and his thirst for knowledge could lead him down a much darker path, but we already knew that.


So I'm giving this story five stars because by itself it's a great and intriguing story of how the Scarecrow became the twisted mad scientist we see in Dorothy Must Die, but honestly other than providing minor context it doesn't seem to have any major significance to the main series. I mean, I know that novellas are essentially supposed to be filler, aspects of the story that aren't vital to the main plot, but I just wished there was some foreshadowing for the main series in these stories or something.


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