Select one of the keywords
Of Courage and Witchcraft: Dark Oz Book I    by Aaron Denenberg order for
Of Courage and Witchcraft
by Aaron Denenberg
Order:  USA  Can
CreateSpace, 2009 (2009)

Read an Excerpt

*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a well-loved classic from its musical and movie incarnations as The Wizard of Oz to the 1960s musical version, The Wiz, to the 1980s movie Return to Oz, to Gregory Maguire's book and musical Wicked, to many cartoon show parodies, not to mention Baum's numerous sequels. One of these reincarnations of the famous story was a comic book series in the early 1990s by Ralph Griffith and Stuart Kerr called Dark Oz. In 2004, Aaron Denenberg teamed up with the Dark Oz creators to write a screenplay that never made it anywhere. Undaunted, Denenberg decided to turn the screenplay into a novel trilogy, of which Of Courage and Witchcraft is the first book.

It's set in the present day. Dorothy Gale is now twenty-five and well on her way to a career as a movie stunt pilot. After a day helping her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em crop dust their fields, she learns that their three hired hands, the ones who were her friends so long ago, are now suing for the land. Distraught about their situation, her aunt and uncle basically have to force her to fly back to Hollywood for the meeting she has the next day about her newest movie project. Along the way, a mysterious storm overtakes her, forcing her to crash land in a corn field made of gold.

It does not take Dorothy long to realize she has returned to the fantastic world of Oz. Yet this time her ruby slippers (now way too small) do not work. As she trudges along to find help, a group of Nomes overtake her and accuse her of trying to steal the Nome King's gold. She is rescued by Jack Pumpkinhead who takes her to the camp of the Freedom Fighters. Oz has not known war for over a thousand years, but since the Nome King has infiltrated their world, he has imprisoned Queen Ozma and turned Dorothy's old friends (Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Courageous Lion) against the rest of Oz. Dorothy and the Freedom Fighters are determined to break the spell over her three friends and defeat the Nome King, but freedom always comes at a great cost.

The plot of Dark Oz Book I: Of Courage and Witchcraft is wonderful. The characters, who are fully-formed, are firmly rooted in and true to Baum's original forty-book Oz canon. Even though the world is one familiar to most through Baum's works, Denenberg does a great job of bringing Oz to life through words. The theme is a good one, and the twists are unexpected and exciting. The ending is satisfying, yet leaves plenty open for the rest of trilogy. All in all, from a strictly literary sense, Of Courage and Witchcraft is a winner.

Where it fails is in its editing, which can be one of the pitfalls of self-publishing. The book I had was the final product, but it had more grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors than any proof I have ever read. Apostrophes were almost non-existent, and some that were there were in the wrong spot. Capitalization was random. Homonyms were mixed. A few spots towards the end switched in the middle of paragraphs to present tense and lasted for about a page. All of these hindered the enjoyment of the story, but what I found most jarring were the hyphens. This book is littered with hyphens and almost all of them should actually be dashes, and then some of those should be changed to commas, colons, semi-colons, and periods. As they currently are, these dashes are single short lines placed in between words with no space on either side, so when a true hyphen appears, it takes the brain a minute or two to realize it is actually a hyphenated words and not a side thought or explanation.

I truly enjoyed the story in Dark Oz Book I: Of Courage and Witchcraft and am eager to find out what happens in Book II: Of Metal and Magik. However, I hope that author Aaron Denenberg finds a good editor before publishing the next installment.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Fantasy books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews