Thursday, 12 July 2012

Defying Gravity

I recently finished the last in Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years series, Out of Oz. The series began with the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in Wicked. Maguire's spun an epic, complex, sprawling saga, spun out of Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz books.
Elphaba's story ends much as it does in Baum's original, but the story of her descendants, friends and country continue in Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men and finally Out of Oz, which gathers together characters from the previous books, including a certain Miss Dorothy Gale, as Oz enters its own end game. War has broken out between Munchkinland and Loyal Oz, Elphaba's half brother Shell sits on the throne the Wizard once held, and a ragtag band of strangers will be drawn together to find a solution and save Oz from rending itself apart as it has been doing since before Dorothy's house fell on Elphaba's sister, Nessarose.
Liir, Elphaba's son, his wife Candle, the Cowardly Lion, Brr, a strange little girl called Rain, Mr Boss, the dwarf who accompanies The Clock of the Time Dragon and other assorted peoples of Oz journey across its expanses, searching for a safe place to hide the Grimmerie, the book that gave the flying monkeys their wings. Swept up into the political maelstrom raging across the grass plains, marshes and towns, chased by militia and fate, this disparate gang need to find a way to bond, to connect with their pasts and with the power hidden inside them.
Funny, clever, and bursting with life, I raced to finish this book, desperate to know if Elphaba really was coming back, or if Rain would learn to be part of the world instead of a distance from it.
I suggest you read the previous books in order to fully follow what is going on - Wicked the book differs a fair bit from Wicked the musical, although it inspired it, so don't rely on having seen it. You get a greater sense of the depth of the writing from having read the rest of the series, the complex, detailed plot often harks back to previous storylines and the characters back stories aren't explained in any detail, as Maguire is assuming that you've read the previous volumes.
An excellent series from a talented writer, with a skill for retelling older stories, it's fun, clever, and well worth the read.

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