When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. “Wicked” is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.
An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
First of all, a disclaimer: I think I would have enjoyed this book much more if I wasn’t a devotee of the “Oz” series by L. Frank Baum as a kid. What’s that? You thought it was just one book? No, no no – there are fourteen books and I think I read them all. I’m sure my third grade teacher was thoroughly sick of hearing about them after the third book report.
That being said, “Wicked” is quite clever. Maguire does a fantastic job working in new ideas into the existing “Wizard of Oz” story that we’re all familiar with. Having loved Oz so much, this thrilled me that he wasn’t revising so much as retelling from a different perspective. And of course everyone has been obsessed with the Broadway play.
In the end, however, I mostly came away feeling a little bad for Elphaba and Dorothy and everyone in the book. That’s not to say the Oz books aren’t a little dark at times, but the “Wizard of Oz” always felt light and carefree. “Wicked” is creative and a great idea, but I came away as a downer both in the plot-line and some of the things introduced for the first time. I found I had a lot of questions about the school… I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the book, but also would recommend to make sure people know what they’re getting into.
Warning: Contains some violence.
Rating: 3 stars!
Who should read it? Folks unfamiliar with the “Oz” series by L. Frank Baum – I think they’d enjoy it more than I did!
Want to read the whole series?
Son of a Witch (The Wicked Years #2)
A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years #3)
Out of Oz (The Wicked Years #4)