wicked.jpgI finished off Gregory Maguire’s Wicked on the commute last night. If you’re not familiar with it, it came out several years ago and is a “parallel novel” that re-examines part of the story of L. Frank Baum’s Oz from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. Although Wicked has roots that seem more strongly placed in the Oz novels* than the popular movie, readers shouldn’t have too much trouble orienting themselves. Maguire uses the backdrop of Oz to examine morality, politics and society, and in my opinion succeeds in drawing some good parallels. His expansion (and re-imagining) of the characters most of us are familiar is quite entertaining as are his addition of some additional figures. However, as a novel the work seems to wind down and run out of steam towards the end. Where as earlier and formative events in the life and times of the Wicked Witch make the reader reconsider her in a world more akin to the darker periods of our own modern world, the conclusion of the novel feels almost anti-climatic and thin. I suppose the ending is probably best taken as inescapable fate or destiny taking over, but I was sort of hoping that the innovative liberties Maguire took would continue to the very end.

* And, as such, Wicked is not at all suitable for children.

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6 Responses

  1. implementor says:

    I’ve been meaning to read this for a while. I’ve read all of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, so, this shouldn’t be hard for me to get into.

  2. Mystech says:

    Not at all. I’ve only seen the movie and skimmed the canonical Oz stuff and I had no problem at all (though the map of Oz inside the book helps immensely with geographical issues). I think you would particularly enjoy the Wicked Witch’s time “underground” in the Emerald City. šŸ˜‰

  3. Joie says:

    I haven’t read “Wicked”, but I did read “Mirror, Mirror” and found that it also ran out of steam toward the end. I was so unimpressed that I didn’t bother to pick up any other of Maguire’s books. An online friend told me that “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” turned out much the same way, so I’m thinking it may be an issue with Maguire’s writing style more than anything else.

  4. Mystech says:

    Would seem to suggest a strength for variation and character development but a real weakness for story arcs. Too bad, really. I kind of doubt I’ll be picking up any other parallel novels by Maguire based on that, too many other things I would like to (and need to) read. šŸ™‚

  5. Aren says:

    While I found the concept for the novel intriguing, it ultimately left me with a very sour taste in my brain. If you’ve ever seen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, I compare Maguire to the Austrian leader, who seems to have a desire to kill fantasy and imagination in favor of reason and factuality. Writing a book to make the Wicked Witch a more tragic character is all well and good, but he did it by turning Oz into just another Kansas (metaphorically speaking).

  6. Mystech says:

    I see where you’re coming from, Aren. There was a certain loss of wonder in Maguire’s re-imaging of Oz. While that in itself didn’t completely turn me off, I think that as a trade off for the transition from fantasy to realism, the author should have followed through with the change in tone until the very end. Instead, it felt as if all the changes and re-interpretations were sort of “spent” and the reader is left with an untidy and bland conclusion. I suppose that is the final lack of fantasy and imagination for me in Maguire’s Wicked for me. šŸ™

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