The Peoh Trilogy is the first book series completed by Aileen Morris. The first book in the trilogy, The Darkness of Peoh, was published on July 5, 2015. The Affair of Peoh was published on April 20, 2016, and The Rebellion of Peoh followed suit on May 16, 2017.
Morris wrote the trilogy after becoming increasingly disillusioned with the themes and characters of contemporary young adult fiction, and deciding to do a modern twist on the classic story of The Wizard of Oz, influenced by and responding to her reading of The Hunger Games. “It isn’t Oz,” she says. “It is a twist on Oz, but it isn’t the same story. Nor is it The Hunger Games. It simply responds to some elements of The Hunger Games, and similar young adult stories, that I didn’t like. Peoh is definitely an intertextual story, but it is its own story.”
The story of Peoh revolves around Dorothy Everglade, a girl who is recruited to leave her poor but snug home in the fictional Land of Peoh’s Gray District and work in the filthy, hazardous Tar-Pit mines of Emeraldia. “The Gray District recalls the Kansas farm, and ‘Emeraldia’ quite obviously recalls the Emerald City,” says Morris. “And, of course, ‘Dorothy’ recalls Dorothy…”
But Dorothy Everglade is her own character, more reserved and less emotional than Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. And the government of Peoh is far more complex than the wizard and witches who are in power in Oz. The Sunshine of Peoh, the country’s absolute ruler, is stern and demanding, but what he wants most is a stable society. Clara Martin, his aide, is even more bossy and unpleasant, and prejudiced to boot, but she also is motivated by the desire to see things done properly. As the books progress, it is evident why many of the people are rebelling, but an effective solution to the problem is much less evident.
“And yet,” promises Aileen Morris, “at no point in my story, any more than in Harry Potter, will readers feel that my heroes and heroines are supporting a warped cause, never mind becoming warped themselves!” She feels that a moral uprightness in the main characters is one ingredient sorely lacking in some modern fiction. “Some of us would like the protagonists, at least on some level, to be role models we can look up to!”
The protagonists of Peoh, other than Dorothy Everglade, include Freddie Verbena, her well-informed neighbour who is a wiz with machines; his close friend Brian Armstrong, a wealthy Emeraldian who is sympathetic to the poorer districts; Frida Wood, a dancer with a troubled past who is romantically involved with Brian; and the trio of new friends Dorothy makes at the Tar-Pits – insecure John Melbury, sickly Elin Sparrow, and proud Lionel Collin Russell.
As the political situation in Peoh becomes more tense, and more people start rebelling against the government, Dorothy and her friends need to work out whose side they should be on, all while developing strong personal relationships. There is romance, there is adventure, there is mystery, and perhaps most importantly to Aileen, there are characters who don’t necessarily conform to popular convention. “The people of Peoh are definitely individuals,” she says.