The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time
October 15, 2020 7:54 AM EDT

After the success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, L. Frank Baum wrote a whole series of wildly inventive Oz books—14 in all, most of them featuring the young heroine he introduced in the first, Dorothy Gale of Kansas. Nearly all are terrific, but the third, from 1907, may be the most memorable: Ozma of Oz finds Dorothy en route to Australia by ship, where she is blown into the drink during a massive storm. She floats to shore in a chicken coop, and finds herself not in Oz, but in a nearby kingdom known as the Land of Ev. There she reconnects with her old friends Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Woodman, and makes new ones including Tiktok, a mechanical copper man. But she also meets several formidable enemies, including the haughty Princess Langwidere, who keeps exactly 30 beautiful heads in a mirror-lined dressing room, changing them according to whim. Baum’s description of Langwidere is vivid, alluring and more than a little macabre, and the accompanying pen-and-ink illustration by John R. Neill, showing her as a chic, Gibson Girl-style temptress, only seals the deal. The Oz books are frequently cited by creative, inventive professionals as childhood favorites. Strike up a conversation with any of them and see if Langwidere doesn’t come up within the first five minutes. No one ever forgets the princess with interchangeable heads. —Stephanie Zacharek

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