What to say about the book that spawned an award-winning musical by bestselling author Gregory Maguire? I had meant to read Wicked for years, but I finally found time to sit down and conquer this 500-page tome over the last week.
This very adult re-telling of the classic Wizard of Oz story goes into a great deal of behind-the-scenes action and into the minds of multiple players to rend far more detail into the world of Oz and its denizens than ever hinted at in the original story by Frank L. Baum. Each section of the book contains enough detail and depth of storylines to form a separate volume of a series, but the author grants us the entire tale in one massive hardcover.
Maguire goes into detail about the origin of the “witches,” their backgrounds, and motivations, painting a picture of three-dimensional characters that are far more than mere bad guys, enough so, that when we are finally introduced to Dorothy in the very last section, we are able to feel sympathy, if not outrage, of the witch sisters’ plights.
While this story contains a great deal of political and religious debate, developing a complex world for the fabled land, the author uses a folk tale format for much of the story that entertains the reader and utterly ensnares them in his creation.
Witness the birth of Elphaba, the Munchkinlander afflicted from birth with green skin, and Galinda, the spoiled, vain Gilikinese maiden who are thrown together in the most unexpected of ways, to become rivals, friends, and finally stand on the opposite sides of the story. Witness also Elphaba’s sister, sheltered and crippled, who rises to leadership in a revolt only to become a hapless victim of natural disaster.
The author leads the reader to question who actually is good and who is evil in the story? Surely those labels are contrary and interchangeable at points, as the nature of beloved and not-so-beloved characters from witch, to wizard, to loyal or rebel citizenry are questioned. The arrival of a small girl from Kansas just may be the powder keg that sparks the change of everything.
This is a story well worth the read, and easily earns five stars for fans of paranormal, fantasy, and modern retellings of childhood classics.