Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Also Reviewed by Kari

Summary:
The death of Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West, brings about spectacular changes in this masterfully imaginative sequel to Maguire's 1995 blockbuster Wicked—most notably, the startling possibility that Elphaba had a son. Scattered among the ruins of great portions of Emerald City, many residents have been skinned and bloodied, supposedly by the barbaric Yunamatas. Travel caravan leader Oatsie Manglehand stumbles upon the body of an unknown young man, badly beaten but still alive. She presents him to the wise Superior Maunt, who recognizes the hurt boy as Liir, rumored to be the dead Witch's secreted son...

Maguire supplies alternating chapters of extensive, mesmerizing backstory of Liir's boyhood, from the witch's watery demise, to the trek to the Wizard's Castle with Dorothy and company, his search for the imprisoned princess Nor, and a long stint in the Munchkinland Army, all while donning his mother's black cape and clutching her magic broom handle. Along the way, a headspinning cast of vividly described, eccentric characters emerges. By Publishers Weekly, via Amazon.com

My Review:
Oh, how I wanted to love this book. And how long I put off reading it out of fear I wouldn't. What I realized as I read was that what I really wanted was a character I could care about as much as I did Elphaba (the Witch in the first of this series, Wicked). Time and time again I nearly thought I had it, then Liir would let me, and himself, down. Every time he had a chance to do something noble he'd fumble, further convincing himself that he did not measure up to what he was, or perhaps wasn't - the son of the Witch.

For much of the book he was entirely frozen by his unknown parentage, unable to become anything at all because he didn't know what he "should" be. If he had made a commitment to one possibility or another his choices would have then been concrete judgements based on his own desires. Instead his life was shaped by errant missteps that left him a middling, mediocre character.

This would almost be enough for me to cast the book entirely aside. However, knowing (okay, admittadly just finding out) that there is a third installment in the series gives me the hope that Liir will embrace the heroic actions he began to take near the end of this book and become the hero I was hoping to find. I justify the actions of Liir because he was so young for so much of the book and as he ages has the potential to become - HIMSELF - instead of the maybe-child of the famous Witch.

Character flaws aside (and what is this series if not a look at flawed characters?) I love the writing style of the author in these books. Not overly poetic, but still unique enough to change the cadence of my thoughts and words while I read. This book however lacked a lot of the layered quality that made Wicked one of my all time favorite novels.

As I read I found myself missing and mourning dear Elphaba and take this moment to strongly recommend Wicked. The dark plots and many of the pitiable or ignoble characters are scrubbed out of the sparkly Broadway show - making the Musical rather into a yummy treat but lacking so much of the heartwrenching beauty of the book.

I eagerly plan to read the third book, looking for some of the depth in Wicked to sate my desire for a character equal Elphaba.

My rating: 3.75 stars - I just didn't love Liir like I wanted to, although I don't think the author intended me to. The writing style nearly earns this book a four and I hold hope for the third book to up the overall rating of the series.

In One Sentence: Perhaps the good person we turn into is a result of all the poor choices we make in life.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I have been pondering reading this series for a while now but thought it may be a little too crazy for me. This review has convinced me to give "Wicked" a try. Thanks.

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