Wicked is Gregory Maguire’s marvelous interpretation of the Wizard of Oz story. A few years ago, I was entranced by his rather cynical and realistic “behind-the-scenes” notion of this tale. Who could have thought of the politics, the pathos, and the twisted perception of events that, in Maguire’s mind, shaped the famous children’s story as we know it today? After reading his ingeniously told Side B of the story, I can never look at the Wicked Witch of the West the same way again.
In case you’re curious about what I deem to be this author’s best, see a review from Room Full Of Words. Indeed you may be hard put to find a rendition of the Wizard of Oz that is charming but also scathing, compelling and so multi-layered in scope as Wicked.
Naturally, I gravitated towards this sequel, Son Of A Witch, which tells the story after the Wicked Witch of the West’s, Elphaba Thropp’s demise.
Author : Gregory Maguire
Date of First Publication : September 27, 2005
Publisher: Regan Books; 1st ed edition (Hardcover)
Date of Publication for this Edition : September 30, 2008
Publisher of this Edition : Harper
No. of Pages : 464
The Story :
After the revolution that unseated the Wizard of Oz and had Dorothy inadvertently melting the Wicked Witch of the West, the tale in Oz continues. The countryside of Oz is menaced by inexplicable murders in which victims’ faces are scraped off, the crimes many believe to have been perpetrated by the Yunamata. Liir, the little boy in Elphaba’s castle, is found broken and at death’s door. He is delivered to a mauntery either for care or burial. No one knows who he is or what had almost cost him his life, except for Old Mother Yackle, a silent, batty crone who believes he is Elphaba’s son.
The Superior Maunt assigns a young girl, Candle, who plays a domingon beautifully , to give whatever comfort her music may bring, either to aid in Liir’s death or help in his mending. Liir responds to the healing music and wakes to slowly remember what brought him here. His life is a journey of questions : Who is he? Is he really the witch’s son? What of his missions: to find his childhood friend, Nor and to grant the Yunamata leader’s dying wish?
With Elphaba’s broom and cape in hand, he faces his questions as best he can. Meantime, he learns of the political machinations behind all the murders by the powers-that-be in Oz. So he takes up the cudgels of his questioned heritage and decidedly albeit resignedly takes up the fight for the people’s rights just as his eccentric mother of a witch had done before him.
The Review :
I have read Wicked and have been flying around on its broomstick, until I crashed with a resounding” THUD” with Son Of A Witch.
As a sequel, Son Of A Witch is darker and much more serious than its predecessor. The overall feel is like going through a wasteland of negative emotions. Although Maguire incorporates love, forgiveness, perseverance, and honor, they come at the expense of an overbearing sense of depression all throughout the book. It is a dreary fantasy that comes across as too odd, too black, too serious, too everything. Maybe because it doesn’t have that light other side to it like Wicked had. I mean Wicked, although cynical, came out fantastically done because it was more like the “inside scoop” on what really happened in the fairy tale, the Wizard of Oz. That made it totally interesting, without mentioning Maguire’s superb writing and conceptualization yet. Son Of A Witch, though, isn’t based on anything so perhaps immersing in this rather eccentric world becomes too tedious to bother. A non sci-fi reader trying to read science fiction would perhaps know what I mean.
Actually, I am hard put on how to rate this particular book as I did like some aspects and but mostly hated a lot of others. The pros going for this book are Maguire’s prose and main character development. He handles shifting from serious philosophical meanderings to crude down-to-earth remarks rather well. There is humor in this book; Maguire is never without it. His brand is not the subtle kind but straight-to-the point jocularity that is oftentimes laced with sarcasm or vulgarity or even childishness. Character development is to be lauded as well. Liir’s personality progression is realistically paced and drawn.
Now on to the cons…Despite the prose I have always admired of Maguire and the believable development of the main character, the author just manages to strip this book of much appeal. It is its universal dreariness, its oddity perhaps, and its tiresome characters that bring the book down as a crashing bore. I just stayed with the book so I could make this review; otherwise, I would have chucked it out as a waste of time.
To Read Or Not To Read :
I can’t help but compare Wicked and Son Of A Witch because I am sorely disappointed. Invest your time in other reads unless you so love Maguire’s Oz or you just revel in Maguire’s phraseology and his style of festooning his fantasy world with realism. Then, you may not mind the pervasive moodiness this book offers.
In case you still feel like reading Son Of A Witch, don’t attempt to do so if you haven’t read Wicked. The author assumes you have read the first so he does not offer explanations about events or characters in this one. Moreover, the conclusion is a hanging one as the story continues on to A Lion Among Men, the third and last book of The Wicked Years trilogy.
As with Wicked, this sequel is far from a YA novel. Allusions to and spot mention of violence and sexuality categorize this book as adult fantasy.
In A Nutshell:
I don’t think Maguire should have made a sequel, much less a trilogy. Wicked is brilliant in itself and doesn’t need to be propped by a rather unsatisfying addendum.
My Mark : Fair