This one brings back Dorothy Gale, who did not appear in the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. In this story, Dorothy and her Uncle Henry have taken a ship to Australia to visit some relations. Dorothy wanders on deck when she shouldn't and winds up being blown overboard in a storm—luckily for her, along with a chicken coop that was tied to the deck. Dorothy is adrift at sea in her chicken coop, along with a chicken, who starts to talk. Dorothy and Billina the chicken eventually drift to land, where they find themselves not in Oz, but in the similarly strange and wonderful Land of Ev. After being hounded by the Wheelers, a people with wheels instead of hands and feet, Dorothy discovers the clockwork robot Tik-Tok, who helps clear away the Wheelers. Dorothy goes to the castle of Princess Langwidere for assistance, a narcissist who collects heads and switches them with her own at will. After Dorothy refuses to trade her head for one of the princess's, she imprisons Dorothy. And as the title indicates, eventually Dorothy has a rendezvous with Princess Ozma, the heroine of The Marvelous Land of Oz, who travels to Ev on a mission to free their royal family from the clutches of the Nome King. Ozma frees Dorothy and she accompanies them to the Nome King's dominions. The Nome King has transformed the royal family of Ev into inanimate objects, and challenges the Oz citizens to guess which of his objects are the royal family; at the risk of being transformed themselves if they guess incorrectly.
The novel marks the beginning of Baum's intent to make the Oz books an ongoing series; something he was not always fond of having to continue. Here he brings Dorothy back by popular demand, and backtracks on some of the elements which his fans disliked in the second book. The Nome King goes on to be a recurring villain in the series. The movie Return to Oz is mainly an adaptation of this book, with some elements from the previous book added.
This novel provides examples of:
- And I Must Scream: The Nome King inflicts this on his prisoners, transforming them into lifeless trinkets to add to his collection.
- Beauty Is Best: Princess Langwidere of Ev is so narcissistic that she has a collection of 30 heads she can swap at will. Each of the heads is beautiful, with flawless skin and perfect hair, and Langwidere is so vain she spends hours on hours sitting in a mirrored chamber and admiring whatever head is on her shoulders at the moment - to the detriment of her duties as the default regent of Ev. After initially dismissing Dorothy as "boring and stupid," she offered to trade Dorothy's head for one of her own, and has the little girl imprisoned when she refuses."Princess Langwidere looked at Dorothy and said, as if talking to herself: You are rather attractive, not at all beautiful you understand...but, you have a certain style of prettiness, that is different from that of any of my thirty heads. I believe I'll take your head, and give you number twenty-six for it!"
- Carnivore Confusion: Discussed Trope. The Hungry Tiger is hungry all the time because his conscience won't let him eat all the delicious people and animals that surround him.
- Chekhov's Gun: Billina lays two eggs, which the Scarecrow picks up and keeps in his pocket. This seems unimportant, until the Nome King freaks out and tries to imprison the whole party. The Scarecrow then wings his eggs at the Nome King, hitting him in both eyes and temporarily blinding him, allowing Dorothy to grab the magic belt.
- Clockwork Creature: Tiktok the Machine Man. You have to wind him up every few days or he'll run down.
- Evil Hand: As a minor example, princess Langwidere's temper tends to change depending on the head she is wearing.
- Exact Eavesdropping: Billina decides to go under the Nome King's throne in order to lay her egg. This allows her to hear a very convenient conversation in which the Nome King not only explains to his steward what ornaments all his victims were turned into, but also explains that the source of his power is his magic belt.
- Faux Affably Evil: The Nome King, who is jolly and polite and cheerful, but essentially tricks everyone in Ozma's party into getting turned into ornaments. He turns to rage when Billina frees all his victims from enchantment.
- Honorary Princess: Dorothy is offered by Ozma the chance to stay in Oz as a princess. She chooses to go home instead, but that doesn't stop her from holding the title whenever she visits in later books."What!" cried Polly, looking at Dorothy curiously. "Do you belong to the nobility?"
"Just in Oz I do," said the child, "'cause Ozma made me a Princess, you know. But when I'm home in Kansas I'm only a country girl, and have to help with the churning and wipe the dishes while Aunt Em washes 'em. Do you have to help wash dishes on the rainbow, Polly?"
- Humongous Mecha: The Iron Giant (no relation) guarding the path to the Nome Kingdom.
- I Choose to Stay: Billina decides to stay in Oz, where she is much better off. Dorothy isn't ready to stay just yet though.
- Made a Slave: The Nome King justifies turning the queen of Ev and her children to ornaments because they had been sold to him as slaves, and it was more humane than slaving in the mines.
- Magic Carpet: An unusual variant. This magic carpet protects users from dangers below. It unrolls itself on the front end and rolls itself up on the back end forever, allowing Ozma and her party to cross the Shifting Sands that separate the Land of Ev from the Land of Oz. It also can function as a bridge, allowing Ozma and company to cross a gully that is too wide to leap.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Billina almost eats Ozma as a grasshopper ornament. Fortunately, she doesn't find the gemstone edible.
- King Evoldo comes to regret selling his family, and commits Suicide by Sea.
- Off with His Head!: Princess Langwidere offers a unique non-fatal example. She collects heads to swap with her own on certain days to suit her mood which come with different personalities, and she attempts to force Dorothy to trade her head for one she doesn't mind letting go from her collection (which is a case of Blue and Orange Morality, as the Princess thinks it is a perfectly fair and equitable dealeven generous, and simply can't understand why Dorothy objects).
- Portal Picture: A minor example — one of Tiktok's inventors is said to have painted a picture of a river that was so natural, he fell in and drowned.
- Princesses Rule: Princess Langwidere of Ev is a justified example, as she's merely acting as ruler until the return of the Royal Family.
- Robo Speak: Tik-Tok's way of speaking and one of the earliest examples of this trope.
- Secondary Character Title: Dorothy is the main character, and Ozma finally appears a few chapters in.
- Suicide by Sea: Long before the events of the main narrative, King Evoldo sold his wife and kids to the Nome King in exchange for a longer life. He didn't realize until after the fact how horrible what he did was, and since he couldn't do anything to get them back, he threw himself into the ocean, wasting the very thing he'd sold his family for.
- Tomboyish Name: Bill the hen. Dorothy insists on re-naming her Billina.