77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heir to the kingdom
L. Frank Baum was absolutely fascinated by (and exemplary of) Yankee ingenuity, and that's part of what made Gregory Maguire such a perfect heir to Baum in WICKED, his 1995 dark revisioning of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. One of the greatest pleasures of Maguire's novel was to see how Baum's fantasy world of Oz might look from a more sober adult perspective, and though...
Published on October 17, 2008 by Jay Dickson
49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Relatively Strong with a Few Furry Bits
Maguire faces a conundrum; he's created arguably one of the most powerful heroines in modern literature and also killed her off as he was required to do; he has to therefore build on the success of Elphaba without being able to portray her. Son of A Witch and now A Lion Among Men continues the story of Oz in which Elphaba acts only as a background character whose...
Published on October 14, 2008 by M. Adams
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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heir to the kingdom,
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L. Frank Baum was absolutely fascinated by (and exemplary of) Yankee ingenuity, and that's part of what made Gregory Maguire such a perfect heir to Baum in WICKED, his 1995 dark revisioning of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. One of the greatest pleasures of Maguire's novel was to see how Baum's fantasy world of Oz might look from a more sober adult perspective, and though Maguire's own fantasy of what Oz might be ultimately superseded Baum's (which is appropriate, given that both books are about repeated regime changes), Maguire's dystopic fantasy was aided mightily by the efficient clockwork of Baum's plot acting as a motor propelling the events along. You knew that Elphaba would have to wind up in the Vinkus (or "Winkie Country") as the Wicked Witch of the West, and that Dorothy would come along eventually with that fateful bucket of water. (That Dorothy should show up to be merely a remorseful pawn in the extended games of manipulation waged among Elphaba, the Lady Glinda, and the Wizard was not only Maguire's grandest irony but one of the most satisfying parts of his book.) Maguire's first sequel, SON OF A WITCH, suffered greatly from the removal of this Baumian framework. The masterplot of this later work seemed based on the George W. Bush administration rather than anything dreamed up by L. Frank Baum (with Tip, Mombi, and the four-horned cow making only the briefest of appearances to remind us of Baum's own sequel to his first oz novel). Maguire's vision of sexual couplings hidden against a background of oppression and political upheaval seemed a bit adrift and unfocused, and few of the mysteries raised in Maguire's first book received any answer.
This new sequel, A LION AMONG MEN, finds Maguire on much firmer ground: we're much more firmly rooted in Baum's fantasyland, with the Cowardly Lion (glimpsed only briefly in WICKED) now taking center stage, aided by the Glass Cat, that Baumian character introduced in THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ whose lazy snarkiness made it an absolute natural for inclusion in Maguire's books. Dispatched to interview Yackle, the mysterious old woman who kept appearing at different intervals in Elphaba's life, the Cowardly Lion finds her in the Cloister of St. Glinda not far from the Emerald City, and here we find answers to many of the mysteries from the first book in "The Wicked Years" series: who Yackle is, what happened to Elphaba's Grimmerie, what the inhabitants of the mysterious land of the Glikkus nestled in a far corner of Maguire's Oz are like, and (at last!) what the purpose is of the terrifying Clock of the Time Dragon that haunted the opening sections of WICKED. (We also find out why the Cowardly Lion acquired his adjectival descriptor.) Much is left open, such as the fates of Liir, the true Scarecrow, and (most maddeningly) the missing Ozma, and it's hard to see from how Maguire ends this book as to how the events of THE MAGICAL LAND OF OZ, however distorted, might later come to pass (or even how the Glass Cat will end up eventually at the home of Dr. Pipt). Equally frustrating is the fact that so much of this sequel's action is circumscribed in the Cloister and hemmed in by the Ozian civil wars started since the first book in the series. But even if this work is not quite up to the standards of WICKED, it is certainly quite a great deal stronger and more compelling than SON OF A WITCH.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read for the characters and Oz,
As I see the Wicked Years (as Maguire has taken to calling this book series), the strongest of the books by a long shot is Wicked. Shadowing the events, places, and characters of the well-known story provided the opportunity for Maguire to provide alternative views of an incredible number of things, not to mention adding details of his own imagining. I termed Wicked astonishing in my review as a result.
With Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men, I still find Maguire compelling, but these stories aren't quite as rich in the same kind of detail. It was the twist on the familiar that made Wicked *so* well-done. That still happens here to a degree - Maguire is particularly adept at nailing conversational and thought details that accurately reflect the nature of the characters. What's lost, however, is the delicious alternative take on the story you thought you knew. What's left is a very good story to be sure, extending the now familiar Maguire version of Oz, and further developing character versions first introduced in the earlier book(s), but it doesn't quite rise to the same level.
How long can this continue? Got me, though I wouldn't be surprised to see books focused on the Scarecrow and Tin Man in the Wicked Years series. You never know, maybe Maguire will even do an alternative version of the storyline in "Return to Oz" (with Fairuza Balk). If you're going to do alternative takes on fairy tales, you might as well do an alternative on an alternative, too!
A good read, and if you enjoyed Wicked and Son of a Witch, you will also enjoy A Lion Among Men.
49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Relatively Strong with a Few Furry Bits,
Maguire faces a conundrum; he's created arguably one of the most powerful heroines in modern literature and also killed her off as he was required to do; he has to therefore build on the success of Elphaba without being able to portray her. Son of A Witch and now A Lion Among Men continues the story of Oz in which Elphaba acts only as a background character whose presence, because of the success of Wicked, must somehow seep into each subsequent novel.
I did not find Brrr- the Cowardly Lion appealing. I was not as interested in his story as I thought I'd be. I had expected Maguire to weave a traumatic tale of abuse, rejection and how Brrr's relationships in life created a nervous and, perhaps, psychologically disturbed individual. I didn't get that, at least not to the extent I expected from Maguire. Perhaps I just did not engage in Brrr's journey as I found the character quite dislikable and aversive (and not in the Elphaba type of way). I did enjoy the allegorical dimension in which the Lion is perceived as being a collaborationist to the Wizard's regime and also a sympathizer to the Witch's cause at the same time. The discussion regarding the coming and going of different political regimes was also a poignant one. Maguire is a master of political allegory and there is much to be found in this novel. Oz is a rich, dark and complex world on the brink of civil war and Maguire builds the tension brilliantly. With the two Witches who were leaders of separatist states dead, Oz is in freefall.
The novel tells two distinct stories, that of the Lion and that of the mysterious Yackle who appeared to frequent Elphaba's life in Wicked. Although I enjoyed not knowing who Yackle was in Wicked and the many questions that arose about her, her story was the most enjoyable in this novel. The second half of A Lion Among Men pieces together the significance of the allusive Clock of the Time Dragon, Yackle's purpose and what eventually happened to the Grimmerie. Fate is also a recurring theme as it was in the previous two novels and Maguire also begins to challenge unquestioned faith. There's a slight discord between Brrr's story and Yackle's and the two narratives simply don't mesh.
Because the characterization of Brrr was not as strong as I had hoped, I found myself longing to read more about Maguire's familiar characters such as Glinda and Liir. Although both are mentioned, neither appear in the novel and I had hoped to discover more about Liir's journey, especially after finishing Son of a Witch a few years ago for I desperate to read more. My biggest disappointment is that this novel did not continue what Son of A Witch established and where it left off. Maguire will hopefully continue Liir's story in future novels.
An enjoyable read as Oz is such a rich tapestry of people and places but perhaps sadly lacking in Brrr's narrative.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All you have to read is the last chapter.,
"Wiked" was fascinating. "Son of a Witch" frustrating because it was difficult to like any of the characters. But "A Lion Among Men" suffers badly from the "trilogy sickness." This book has no plot, again no characters you can relate to or like, goes over old ground, and creates a history for the Cowardly Lion that is far less interesting than it could have been. Really, you only need to read the last chapter to get what you came for. The rest of it is drudgery. There's a bit of humor here and there, and some appreciated irony. But not nearly enough to make this worth the time I took to read it. I kept hoping it would get better but it didn't. Don't waste your time.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Virtually unreadable - with no storyline,
This is going to prove to be the backbreaker in this series for maguire. Wicked was wonderful, if offputting for many readers. Son of a Witch helped to alienate even more readers with its convoluted storyline, but at least it had a storyline - something was happening throughout the book.
A Lion Among Men has virtually no storyline -- Brrr the cowardly lion recounting (small) portions of his life, and Yackle, not interesting enough to know much about, tying up a bit of information about the Grimmerie -- itself, not interesting enough to know about.
There are a few answers about the Clock of the Time Dragon here -- although not much -- and the books ending leaves every single question readers have unanswered - and I mean every single one: Where is Lir? Where is Candle? Is Elphaba really dead? Is she coming back? Why is the Tin man such an afterthought in these books?
Clearly, there are going to be more books in the Wicked series -- and readers are probably best advised to just skip this third book in the series and wait for the story to come back in the next book.
My fear is that many Maguire readers are going to stop taking the journey after this one.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow reading and not up to expectations,
I found that it was hard to concentrate on this book. The story line bounced around too much in time and between characters. The lion's back story too long to unfold and was not that interesting. In the previous books the story line was interesting enough to pull me through when the language and geography of the land of Oz would seem confusing but in this one I found I didn't care to even try to figure things out.
The only positive for me was the ending. The ending definitely left a place for another book to start off, I just hope if he writes that book it is more in the nature of the first two. This book to me was just a long entailed way to get to the short end.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Third Best,
I was absolutely astounded by Wicked, Maguire's first book in the series. The way he twisted a familiar story into something new and unique was thrilling. If the story hiccuped in places, the strength of plot and character more than made up for it. This third book in the series suffers from the fact that some of the newness has worn off the idea. We have already accustomed ourself to an Oz that is less than perfect and full of complex characters who are not all bad, not all good. So, here we have the Lion, the main character of the third book. I must say that Maguire has an uncanny ability to write female characters. His male characters lack some of the complexity. Of course, the Lion is male. The reader takes a winding journey through his life, sometimes moving back and forward in time, and ends up in a rather unresolved place. It was an interesting story, but there were some loose ends left loose and some parts that I think were added just to keep the mood strange. I was hoping once again to be wowed by Maguire, but I wasn't. It was a bit disappointing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful,
The author rambles on and on through uninteresting stories of an uninteresting character, Brr the Cowardly Lion. I don't know how one takes such beautiful and charming characters such as those from the Wizard of Oz and butchers them into boring, inconsequential individuals and manages to sell books with it. Before you invest your time in this novel, take my recommendation and pick up something else instead.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist Fantasy,
I am a fan of Maguire's work but did not enjoy this entry in the "Wicked" canon. The Lion is a painfully uninteresting character, less cowardly than laconic in both word and action, who is followed through isolated non-events that unravel very slowly over the course of the book's 300 pages.
Maguire is entering shallow waters with the Oz series. His books after Wicked are not inventive enough for the fantasy genre nor do they have the character development, compelling plot or insight to engage the reader of more serious fare. Maguire disposed of the Witch early on and has abandoned focus on the Wizard and other primary figures. We are left with an exploration of secondary characters such as the lion. As a result, the land of Oz becomes the most compelling feature of the books. Unfortunately, Baum's creation, as revised by MGM and Maguire, has neither the breadth of Middle Earth, the texture of Gormenghast nor the menace of newer fantasy worlds such as those of China Meiville and Jeff Vandermeer.
Maguire's strength is in giving the reader a fresh and contrasting look at alternate worlds that had become overly familiar. I'm not sure there is much else to enliven in the land of Oz. I would much rather see the author present an oblique look at another icon such as Pinnochio or go a different route entirely as was tried, not quite successfully, in Lost.
L. Frank Baum's books came to be redefined for the general public by the MGM movie. Similarly, Maguire's initial novel was reinterpreted by the Broadway musical. He is writing now with reference to both versions. Rather than providing unique revisionist fantasy, Maguire is now constrained by his own inventions. His previous writing was fresh and inventive while his last Oz effort is forced and derivative.
There are better Maguire books to read than A Lion Among Men. As a fan of his work, I am hopeful that this represents his last return to Oz.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the best,
This third installment of the Wicked series has been a tough item to finish. Wicked was an amazing story and I could not put it down once I started. Son of a Witch fell short of the first, and now the third has fallen even farther. While it clears up some of the loose ends left by SOAW, I found it was very difficult to get really "into" the story. The only character I actually enjoyed was Cubbins, and that didn't last very long. While reading Wicked, my imagination ran wild with images from the story. It was clever, unique, and very touching. This story fell flat of my expectations.
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A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire