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 be 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.
Book Review: ★★★★★★
This book is the adult, steroid version of The Wizard of Oz, and if you have fond memories of this childhood classic — this might be a book you want to consider before jumping in. If you have problems with close attachments to your childhood favorites — and the recasting of those fond memories, this book might not be for you. There is certainly adult content, and adult themes throughout the book, and the characters are vastly different from what we all grew up knowing.
The base line story is found in this book — however, you need to do a little looking to find it. Additionally, this story is based on trying to expand the world of Oz. Maguire seeks to give us a broader insight into the world of Oz, and the characters found in the original story. The Cowardly Lion, The Scarecrow, the good witch Glinda, and even the Wicked Witches of both the East and the West. Each of the characters is developed on a much broader base, and a wider world for political intrigue, rebellion, civil unrest, and even social vying for power. But this book also creates some conflicts in the characters — and their personalities as a whole.
It takes a little adjustment to see the Wicked Witch of the West as an anti-social patriot, with little to no magical power. She has an overwhelming sense of justice, and a need to see that abuses of power do not go unpunished. However, with everything she is trying to accomplish, we are given a fatally flawed character that is doomed from the beginning to a life of failure, and ineptitude. But her greatest search is not in the quest for justice, or the desire to overthrow the “evil wizard,” but rather in challenging the question of “what is a soul?” and “who, if anyone, has one?” Though set in a fictional, fantasy world — this book does challenge some of the prevailing concepts of God, and the processes of belief. This character, the child of a rabid proselytizer, and a mother of loose morals is flaw in more than just appearance from the beginning. And in the end, the green skin is the least of her difficulties. This conflicted character challenges readers to explore the basis of belief, and the vast differences that exist in the myriad beliefs that men subscribe to.
There are many other aspects of this book that I found somewhat troubling — but not enough to quit reading the book. The significant amount of sexual content, and the violent nature of the story as a whole, while providing a little more substance for this childhood story — also turned this story into a very unchild-like rendering of this classic. But it also delves into political intrigue and how it leads to civil unrest, and disrupts the peaceful existence of the society as a whole. Through this presentation — Maguire explores the question of evil, its origins, and its relation to actions, intents, and power.
This book also provides an interesting look at a combining of our world and the fantasy world of Oz. The Wizard, in addition to Dorothy and her escapade through this magical land are simply the surface, according to Maguire’s rendering. There are other characters that also have strange connections to the world we know, which the reader comes to understand through careful reading. These connections drive a lot of the motivations of some of the other characters, and defines the relationships of this world in vastly troubling interactions. These interesting suppositions makes this read an interesting premise, different from the original, and opening the door for us to rediscover this childhood classic in our very adult worlds.
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[...] a book I was a little surprised to see come out as a second book in a series. The initial book, Wicked, was a work of creativity, and a demonstration of how talented a writer Macguire proved to be in [...]