Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Club Discussion: Gregory Maguire's Wicked Series

This month I selected Wicked by Gregory Maguire for the online book club because I've wanted to read it for years and I thought it fit well in the month of Halloween. My only disappointment with this book is that I never read it sooner! I had put off reading the book because I was a little irked that Maguire took someone else's story (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum) and repurposed it for his own novel. I've always been one of those people who thinks it's unimaginative to take someone else's work and rewrite it, but that has all changed with Wicked.

Maguire weaves a wonderful tale of Elphaba Thropp, the woman many of us know as The Wicked Witch of the West, and the land of Oz from the time before the infamous Wizard arrives to Elphaba's untimely death at the hands of the unforgettable Dorothy. As Elphaba grows up we see her transforming into somewhat of a political activist. Upon entering college she is immediately drawn to helping Animals who have just been subjected to new laws limiting their rights and taking away their ability to be gainfully employed in anything besides manual labor. For her actions to aid the Animals she is considered a threat to the Wizard. Not to mention the fact that her sister, the ruler of Munchkinland, has seceded from the greater country of Oz, showing growing discontent of the Wizard's rule among the people of Oz.

And there is so much more. There's magic and talking Animals (animals don't talk, Animals do) as one would expect. Many of the mysteries of Oz are fleshed out and made very real. And we see another side to the story of the Wizard of Oz. The book was definitely a grown-up's fairy tale, but I thought it was wonderfully well written.

I also read Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men after finishing Wicked because I just had to know what happened (seriously, it's like Harry Potter for adults). However, I didn't like Son of a Witch quite as well as Wicked because it moved a bit too slow until it got to the end. I did enjoy it though and the ending made my heart smile in a big way. A Lion Among Men was even slower than Son of a Witch and left me wanting more. Liir (the son of Elphaba) was completely left out of the story with no accounting of him or his family, which I suppose was done in order to leave space for another book in the series, but I was still disappointed by it. In regard to A Lion Among Men, I almost felt like Maguire had a deadline and so decided to throw something together. And I was hugely disappointed that the Lion turned out to be such an opportunistic creep - and after Elphaba saved him as a cub! Have any of you read these sequels? What did you think? Am I being too harsh here?

Also, I want to know what you all thought of Wicked! I tried to keep my review short because I really want to know what you all though. Who were your favorite characters? What did you think of Elphaba? How about her sister? Did you think the author left any unanswered questions at the end?

Wicked was also reviewed by:

Oh, and before I forget: I selected the winner for my copy of Janeology by Karen Harrington! I selected the winner using the list randomizer on and got: REBEKAH E. Rebekah if you can send your mailing address to bexadler at yahoo dot com, I'll send the book out to you. Thanks to everyone who entered and check back in a few days because I'll be holding another giveaway then.


Lezlie said...

I was not impressed at all with Son of a Witch, and I'm on the list at the library for A Lion Among Men. I have to say, though, that I have yet to see a good review for it. I'll read it anyway.

By far, my favorite Maguire book is Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.


Becca said...

Yeah, after reading Wicked, I thought Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is probably a good book as well. I'll have to check it out now. And good luck with A Lion Among Men. It's still interesting and does answer some questions, but definitely didn't live up to my expectations.

Anonymous said...

I read Wicked after a high school teach became obsessed with the musical and got everyone in our drama department addicted to it. I fell in love with the musical, and I loved it when I saw it in person.

The book and musical are very, very different, and I think I like the musical better. It's less dark than the book, as I remember it. In fact, I remember being really surprised when I finally got to the book at just how dark it actually was. I didn't re-read it for this month, although now you're making me wish I had!


Colin Matthew ( said...

When I read Wicked a few years ago I liked it but found parts of it slow. At times I felt it was a little too political and slowed the pace of the book.

Son of a Witch I tried to read but found slow and I have not finished it.

I bought A Lion Among Men but wont get to reading it until I get around to finishing Son of a Witch.

beastmomma said...

So far, I have only enjoyed Wicked. Like you, I found the other books too slow and not as good as Wicked. My favorite character was Elphaba. I found her sister to be annoying.

Becca said...

Colin: Hm. That's interesting that you didn't like it for being too political. I really liked that aspect of the book. I felt like there was more to it than just a story. It kind of reminded me of 1984 in that way.