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 archnemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked?
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.
What I Thought:
I had been meaning to read this book for years. Seriously, years. I was in high school the first time I saw anyone reading it, and the idea intrigued me. Four years later, I spot a used copy on my local bookstore's shelf for only four dollars. Naturally, I snatched it right up. I even took the time to read L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz before I opened Wicked. I wanted to be well-informed about Baum's Oz when I read Maguire's take on it.
The story starts off wonderfully, but the time the book spends at Shiz University is probably my favorite part of the book. At this point, Maguire makes it apparent just how complex Elphaba is. He sets out her principles, her values, and her morals through her years at Shiz. He makes her character easy to relate to, even if she is a fictional, green-skinned resident of Oz. Maguire also takes this time as an opportunity to point out all the political problems in Oz and what Elphaba's take on them is, from religion to Animal rights.
My least favorite part of the book is the last half or so, when Elphaba moves out to the Vinkus. It's such a strange and slow part. When I got to this part, I had to make myself keep reading, but it wasn't a complete deal breaker.
What kills Wicked for me is the characterization of Glinda and Elphaba. Glinda was so affected by what happened to Doctor Dillamond that she changed her name from Galinda to Glinda, which was the way he pronounced it. She became more serious and cared less about silliness and her society friends, but by the end of the book, she's content to be a high society lady in frilly dresses. What happened to her changes? Elphaba's actions at the end contradict everything Maguire has done with her throughout the entire book. Her strong-willed and calm character resorts to stalking a little girl. Yes, she always had conspiracy theories, but this one is just blown up out of proportion. Elphaba is a logical person, but when Dorothy comes calling, she just goes crazy on her. In my opinion, it's inconsistent with her character, and I was irritated by it. It killed the book for me, and that made me sad.
Author: Gregory Maguire