In the first half of the 20th century, publisher Reilly & Lee provided the lucky American children with a new Oz title every year for decades. Looking back on the series today, it seems clear that the quality of the Oz books understandably suffered as a result of this policy. Royal Historians Baum, Thompson, and Neill at some point all submitted material that seemed forced, as if it were traced from an overused blueprint rather than created from inspiration with enthusiasm.
Thompson's tenure was winding down by the time she wrote Captain Salt In Oz (1936), a novel that suffers, as all the worst of the Oz books do, from being in plot and theme about nothing in particular. As in Thompson's The Silver Princess In Oz (1938), much of the writing is leaden and almost impossible to follow comfortably. Captain Salt In Oz reads like a manuscript in which the primary story has been extracted; worse, its narrative could have been told in one - fourth of its 306 pages.
Blending together elements from Ballantyne's 'The Coral Island,' Kipling's 'Captains Courageous,' and Burroughď's Tarzan mythos, Captain Salt In Oz, while occasionally lively in tone, comes to little except some very mild adventures at sea. Ex - pirate and present - day "Royal Oz Explorer" Captain Salt and ship's cook Ato, out colonizing for Ozma on the high seas, rescue petulant young king Tandy from a tropical island prison. Neurotically obsessed with maintaining his regal status while on board the galleon (the Crescent Moon, in homage to Henry Hudson's Half Moon), in time Tandy learns to discard his notions of elitism and live life as the carefree young boy he really is. The trouble is that there is no tension, drama, or adversity in Tandy's catharsis: the waters surrounding him are not stormy and perilous, but brackish and tepid. No villains threaten; no obstacles frustrate. Considering that the story takes place in Oz, where almost anything can happen, almost nothing does.
Captain Salt In Oz is further out at sea that it realizes, and not waving but drowning. No members of the Oz royal family appear, and while pacifist Captain Salt is an energetic, colorful character, he is given little to do but reflect fondly on his previous life as a cutlass - wielding buccaneer. Thompson had an extreme weakness for generic boy kings, and Tandy is in no way distinguishable from any of those that came before him. Those who would like to experience what Thompson made of Oz should consider her excellent Kabumpo In Oz (1922) instead.