"OZ prequel stirs mixed emotions"

Wicked by Gregory McGuire is a look behind the scenes of the Oz books. While most people will tell you it's Elphaba's (the Wicked Witch of the West) story, in truth, you don't see her POV until about 3/4 of the way through the book. Rather, it's told from every POV BUT hers until that point, sometimes focused on her and sometimes on the wider world of Oz.

With the popularity of the soundtrack and the stage play, and by extension the book, I thought I'd give this one a read. To be fair to the author, I can give this book a mediocre score. If you're reading it to fill in the holes in the play or soundtrack, don't bother. The play is very LOOSELY based on the book. The playwrights seem to have played footloose and fancy free with the characters and added quite a bit to the tale that bears no resemblance to the facts of the book. I could give examples, but that would be giving spoilers for the book.

The author's strengths are in building the complexities of Oz. There is a lot of religious tension and political scheming. If that isn't to your tastes, you're going to get annoyed with the book. The machinations of the Wizard and his minions are excellent. I could see why he was doing things and where it would lead, because McGuire is good at that portion of what he writes.

He has a lot of really annoying weaknesses, though. Among them is his timing. You spend CHAPTERS on things that are fairly mundane, neither here nor there in the grand scheme, before you get to something of essence. He has a very meandering style of storytelling that many people find annoying. Another problem is his punctuation. If you catch errors like that, it's going to drive you nuts in the process. And, last but not least, I found his characterizations and personal motivations lacking. It's not that he doesn't do a good job of building his characters, but he doesn't stay true to them once made; his characters, even the decisive ones like Elphie, tend to do things out of character and wobble in their personalities.

It is definitely not appropriate for younger readers, much to the dismay of my YA reader. Just a warning. This book, unlike Oz, is not appropriate for children and YA readers. I would hazard that it's appropriate at about that age one starts to read sensual romance.

Is it worth a read? For the political intrigues...yes. Is it a life-long keeper? I'd have to say no. I am interested to see what he did in second book. Yes, there is a second book to this that follows after Elphie's death. But, I think I'd rather borrow it from the library than buy it.

Reviewed by Brenna Lyons ~ Copyright 2006
For PNR Reviews

Reviewed by PNR Group Member
Posted October 30, 2006


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.

This special edition of the novel includes 16 pages of full- color photographs of the original Broadway production of the musical.

Having sold three-quarters of a million copies since its 1995 publication, now the novel is enjoying a second life as a big-budget Broadway musical directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello. This special edition of the novel includes 16 pages of full-color photographs of the original Broadway production of the musical.


(Oz: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West)
by Gregory Maguire

Regan Books
March 1, 2004
ISBN #0060745908
EAN #9780060745905
Trade Size (reprint)
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Other Books by
Gregory Maguire

Son of a Witch

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