Tag Archives: Gregory Maguire

The Wicked Series by Gregory Maguire

“Writing never helped a soul to do a thing.  Except maybe, to think” – Gregory Maguire in Out of Oz

From Lauren’s Perspective:

In this entry I’m going to discuss the entire Wicked series by Gregory Maguire.  This includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz.  Since I just finished reading the fourth installment in the series, my main focus will be on Out of Oz.  It’s been about a year since I read the first three, so I don’t feel close enough to them to give them a complete review of their own.

When I first read Wicked, I was so excited to have found a fantasy book that was also extremely well written.  Beautifully written in fact.  Fantasy has long been my favourite genre, and in the past, I had given in to reading some pretty terrible and amazing fantasy books of the teen angst genre in an attempt to get my fill.  I usually ended up with books that were easy reads, while being filled with witches and vampires and magic and other worlds.  These were all things I adored.  The problem was that for the most part, they were pretty terribly written.  And sure, there were some that were written pretty well, even above average, but I still felt as though they were far too simple after spending four years reading the likes of Nabokov and Austen.  Still, I read them because I didn’t know where else to look for my fill of the otherworldly.  Then I discovered Gregory Maguire and I finally got both an intellectually appealing read as well as a wonderful fantasy story.  Honestly, not many fantasy books I’ve discovered so far can weave together a sentence as well as Gregory Maguire can, he writes in Wicked, “Not everyone is born a witch or a saint. Not everyone is born talented, or crooked, or blessed; some are born definite in no particular at all. We are a fountain of shimmering contradictions, most of us. Beautiful in the concept, if we’re lucky, but frequently tedious or regrettable as we flesh ourselves out.”  It’s almost perfect as far as I’m concerned.

The problem was with the story itself.  It was lacking too much drama, a drama I expected because of the story’s well-known antagonist.  There was value in a few parts, for instance, discovering the origin of the flying monkeys, the history of the red slippers, and hearing the all-too-familiar lines, “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too”.  These added a great sense of nostalgia to the novel.   However, I realized by the end that not that much actually occurred.  Elphaba, A.K.A. The Wicked Witch of the West, spent her entire life running from one place to another.  She had good intentions about doing the right thing, she wanted to make a difference in her world, but she was never quite able to accomplish anything.  She leaves school, she moves around, she has a short love affair and she ends up with a child in a castle up north.  It felt more as though things were taking place around her, but she never really achieved anything for herself.  As a reader, I longed for something amazing or devastating to happen to her, but the events that could have made an impact were portrayed without any drama.  In the story, she loses her one and only lover, Fiyero.  This could have been tragic, but instead it played out as a side note instead of a major or crushing event in her life.  However, even amidst all the mundane events, the book was still mostly enjoyable because it was such a notorious story.

When we move on to the second and third books, we get narrative from the point of view of her son, Liir, and from the Cowardly Lion himself, referred to as Brr.  I found these books to be a continuation of the lackluster storyline found in Wicked, but harder to enjoy because there wasn’t the familiarity of the famous story to back it up.  Liir was an entirely new character, and with the exception of The Lion and Glinda the good witch, there wasn’t much of the original story carried on.  This in itself would have been fine had the plot been sturdy enough to carry on, but unfortunately it was deficient once again.  Like Elphaba, both Liir in Son of a Witch and Brr in Lion Among Men spent most of their time wandering across Oz, attempting to become something but never quite achieving their goals.  And while there were a couple of exciting moments in both stories that held possibility, on the whole it felt more like a lot of wasted time.  Once again though, the writing was so beautiful and the obvious life views the author was attempting to secrete through his passages were so well thought out that I was still intrigued enough to continue reading, and still intrigued enough to want to find out how it would all end in the final number.

Now we’ve come to Out of Oz.  The final book in the Wicked Series.  This book follows the life of Rain, Elphaba’s granddaughter.  Having such a long break between the stories I did find parts difficult to follow, not entirely remembering all the details of the previous stories.  I discovered with this novel the same types of problems and delights that I encountered with the first three.  The writing was touching, the story obviously well thought out, but the actual plot left a lot to be desired.  Again, Rain spends a majority of her time wandering the land of Oz.  This gives the reader a chance to see new aspects of this beautifully created and imaginatively intense world, which is fantastic.  However, the action filled sequences would usually end in an anticlimactic way that felt almost like a letdown.  Anytime a major plot point surfaced, it would be resolved in such a way to make it seem almost inconsequential.  There was so much going on, it felt as though too many loose ends needed to be tied up.  That gave the impression that a lot of story was lost in between.

A good example is when Dorothy returns.  This has been 20-ish years in the making.  The book opens up with Dorothy on a trip to San Francisco and the reader is anxiously awaiting her inevitable return to Oz.  But then she arrives and doesn’t really do much.  She is arrested for the murder of Elphaba, she escapes, and then…..she just kind of follows the others throughout their journey, not doing much but singing annoying songs and getting on everyone’s nerves.  The only thing that made this bearable was wondering how on earth she would return home this time, without the help of the wizard and those red, sparkly shoes.  But then in a rather abrupt fashion, they open the Grimmerie and send her home.  And that’s that.  Goodbye Dorothy.  This sums up how most of the book felt to me, abrupt and chaotic and slightly hard to follow.

Unfortunately, this book was quite a letdown for me.  But I still read it with great interest and incredible attention to the words because there were still some beautifully constructed sentences.  I think that Maguire had too much to work with when he attempted to combine an incredibly popular story with an incredibly intricate story of his own.  Overall, Wicked is worth reading, in fact they are all worth reading if you are a lover of words as I am, but for story line alone, Wicked had the most promise.  Having said all this though, I would far more recommend Lost by Maguire.  It is entirely of his own creation and just as exquisitely written.

Rating

Wicked

Plot –  3 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form –  5 out of 5
Characters –  4 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value –  3 0ut of 5

Overall Score –  15 out of 20

Son of a Witch

Plot –  2 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form –  5 out of 5
Characters –  2 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value –  3 0ut of 5

Overall Score –  12 out of 20

Lion Among Men

Plot –  2 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form –  5 out of 5
Characters –  2 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value –  3 0ut of 5

Overall Score –  12 out of 20

Out of Oz

Plot –  3 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form –  5 out of 5
Characters –  3 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value –  3 0ut of 5

Overall Score –  14 out of 20

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