Date finished: 10-25-08
Author: Gregory Maguire
Category: Fantasy
Published: 1995
Pages: 406
Rating: 3/5

Basic Plot:
Dorothy and Toto landed with a boom in Oz, but the real whirlwind in Oz had been going on for years before the pair arrived. Just how did the wicked witch become the wicked witch? Is she even a witch? Is she even evil? It’s the “real” story of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West.

My assessment:
Let’s start right here – this is not (not, not, not) a book for children. Don’t get fooled by the connection to the Frank Baum books into thinking so. There are adult (very adult) situations and discussions that you don’t want to get into with your child. Proceed with caution if you are a prudish reader.

Second caveat – The storyline is only marginally like the Broadway stage production (which has some of the best music ever!), so if that’s you’re sole exposure to Wicked, again, proceed with caution and make sure your expectations are in line with what will be a new experience.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, I had been wanting to read this story long before I ever saw Wicked. (Adore!) And having recently read another book by Maguire, I was eager to tackle this one. Wow. One the one hand, great; on the other, way more than I think I want from my entertainment. The premise of the book arose from discussions Maguire had with others about the nature of evil – where it comes from, what it really is, is it just misunderstanding at the root – and that is a prevalent theme. Reminds me of the children’s book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, a reminder that there are two sides to every story and truth is in the eyes of the teller.

That’s a lot of philosophy for one piece of literature. So let’s ignore that for a minute and just talk story and characters. Maguire gets amazingly creative in building an adult version of the world of Oz – complete with political intrigues and religious confusions. It’s fascinating to see him work backwards from the characters and world we “know” (most likely from the movie) and build an explanation for everything. Outside of Boq, I found none of the characters redeeming or even that likeable. They were still intriguing, but very one-dimensional in their selfishness, shallowness or earnestness. Add to that some slightly jarring story-telling at times (wait, how’d we get here?) and it’s hard to say it’s the bestest thing ever.

My favorite part? The reality of Oz – the unrest of populations, the political takeover of the wizard, the policies around the Animals, the conflicts with religions. The environment proved to outshine the characters, hands down.

Get Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West at Amazon.com.

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