07 March 2016

Book Review: Wicked (The Wicked Years #1), Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Title: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Series: The Wicked Years #1
Author: Gregory Maguire
Published: 2006, Headline Review
Pages: 495
Source: Bought
Format: Paperback

Rating: 3/5

"When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature."

Wicked is not what I expected at all. It's a very strange book and I didn't really know what to expect. I haven't seen the musical yet (though I'm desperate to do so), therefore, I honestly didn't know much about the story at all (apart from what I gathered from a few of the songs from the musical).

I'd say Wicked is completely unique compared to anything else I've read. It packs so much into the story and touches on so many topics, including religion, politics, family, romance, sex. However, it is also a very wordy book and I found it to be a very slow going read. But, that being said, I couldn't put it down.

To be fair, it's been a while since I last watched The Wizard of Oz and I think I've only read an abridged version when I was young. So, I'm a bit rusty on the details of the original story. I did find Wicked quite confusing and weird in places and I'm not too sure if it's because of this.

Gregory Maguire does a brilliant job of expanding the world of Oz. He is honestly a wordsmith and describes everything in beautiful (and sometimes rather crude) detail.

Wicked is told in the third person and from the perspectives of a variety of characters close to Elphaba, including Nanny, Glinda, and Fiyero. But never from Elphaba's perspective. The reader therefore never knows what Elphaba is thinking and has to rely on the thoughts of her peers. There was no way that I could have predicted what Elphaba was going to do (with the exception of the inevitable conclusion). However, as The Wizard of Oz is a well-known story, the ending was obvious and not the most climatic.

I really grew to love Elphaba and she was not what I expected her to be like at all. It is really bittersweet given how the story ends. Gregory Maguire paints her out to be a seriously misunderstood and often overlooked woman. Elphaba grew up in the shadows of and very religious father and Nessarose, her younger sister and father's favourite. Her skin condition (being green) also singles her out and people don't warm to her because of this. She lives a hard life being an outcast and any happiness she feels is quickly diminished. I really didn't see the "wicked" in her at all. She just needed a bit of love.

I also quite liked Nanny. She just gets straight to the point and lets everyone know exactly what she thought. She's brilliant.

And I wish we saw more of Liir. He has a really unconventional start to life and isn't the most outgoing child. I just really liked him for some reason and can't wait to find out more about him in Son of a Witch.

Wicked is such a big book and there are so many characters that it is really hard to say what I liked about them. Often, characters were in the story for only a short time too so it was also quite hard to attach to them and get an idea of what they are like. However, they all bring something different to Elphaba's life and this wasn't always a good thing.

I really did enjoy Wicked, despite its rather slow pace and confusing plot. It's a brilliant backstory to the Wicked Witch and it's really hard not to love Elphaba. I would recommend Wicked with caution as it is a bit of a tricky read. But, I will definitely be reading more by Gregory Maguire and can't wait to read Son of a Witch.

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  1. I couldn't imagine reading a slow book that's close to 500 pgs I might crack. I think in this instance, rare instance--I want to just see the theatrical production. Thanks for this review!

    1. It is so worth it though! It is wonderfully written. But I can't wait to finally see the stage show at some point either.

  2. I rather enjoyed this one when I had read it. It is much darker than I could have imagined on the background of what I knew of The Wizard of Oz. I loved getting the other perspective though. I agree that it was a bit of a slow read, but it really was worth it.

    Lisa @ Just Another Rabid Reader

    1. I agree so much! it is so dark compared to what I expected... but I didn't really have much of an idea what to expect anyway. Totally worth it though!


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