Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Premature Book Review: Son of a Witch

In Gregory Maguire's Wicked we learn the story of Elphaba Thropp, better known as The Wicked Witch of the West. It is a retelling, and Maguire takes liberties with the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as well as the movie it inspired, making the Witch a sympathetic character. This is Maguire's modus operandi, as seen in his other retellings. In his defense, The Wizard of Oz takes a lot of liberties as well.

In Son of a Witch we hear the story of Liir, a young boy who was the companion of Elphaba, and quite possibly her son. The Witch is dead, and Liir has to find his way in the world with the few tools Elphaba left him; her broom, cape, and magic looking glass.

Liir's journey is also to discover what happened to the young girl Nor, his only childhood friend and possible half sister. He travels about Oz after aiding Dorothy's return to the Emerald City.

The book is a lot of fun, but also difficult. There is a lot of ugliness in Oz; genocide, war crimes, religious persecution, and the advent of new weapons of war that were perhaps stolen from Elphaba's experiments. The "Yellow Brick Road Irregulars" (Dorothy and company) are not the best people, and Dorothy in particular is quite the opposite of what we remember from Baum.

If you enjoyed Wicked, or the Sci-Fi Channel's Tin Man mini-series, you will likely enjoy Son of a Witch. It is more straight-forward than Wicked, as it deals with fewer characters, and since the reader already knows a bit about Maguire's Oz there is less need to go into great geographic/sociological background of the various regions.

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