Customer Reviews: Son of a Witch: A Novel (Wicked Years)
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on October 27, 2005
In general, I enjoyed this book. Yes, as many readers point out there are, indeed, a few "flaws", but those are mostly a matter of perspective and can be overcome. However, it helps if you simply put a few things in mind. While I do recommend it, I have a few suggestions for improving your reading experience:

1. Unless you are one of those types who loved WICKED enough to nearly memorize it in its entirety, I would highly suggest that you re-read WICKED before you begin this sequel. It will not only help to get yourself in the correct frame of mind but will help you to adjust to the ontology of Oz. I actually began S of a W, stopped, re-read WICKED and then resumed. It helped a great deal - believe me.

2. Remember that, at least to some extent, the book is allegorical or at least very large and sweeping in scope. This means that, while the characters (especially Liir, Trism and Candle) may not initially appear to be well-developed, they actually are - but in a very different manner. It is a story about Oz, not necessarily about the characters. Think of it as a large-scale (Tolkienesque?) drama. Note the way the characters interact and develop and especially what they might represent. If you do not look for it to be a subtle character study (of Liir or otherwise) you will not be disappointed.

3. Read some of the original Oz books and note the world that Baum created. You'll find some interesting revelations.

4. Don't be so in love with Elphaba (as you saw her in WICKED) that you expect the same from Liir. I struggled with this, but had to keep reminding myself that Elphaba is dead and this is an entirely different novel.

5. Maguire is a master at subtle language and imagery. Another reviewer wrote about how he went back and re-read certain passages. That reviewer was a brilliant man, for many aspects of this novel (note: ESPECIALLY THE DEVELOPMENT OF LIIR) come together beautifully when examined under the lens of Maguire's language.

6. This is not a spoiler here: Liir really does develop; he just has a long way to go from his point of origin. Don't expect him to start out as a fully-developed and fascinating character (that is not Maguire's intent at all) and you'll not be disappointed in him. Just sit back and allow yourself to go with the flow.

With many apologies to those who might find this review to be a bit over didactic, I will end it here. This really is not a bad novel, but you must read it for what it is.
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on May 27, 2006
The wide divergence of views about the second of McGuire's Oz books, I think, is because the two books will commend themselves to different audiences. In Wicked, while we are given one of the most memorable of characters, the story is really an exploration of preconceptions, an exploration that works best in a world that we at least think we know. Liir's story in the Son of a Witch is about Liir, the obvious parable of 21st Century US not withstanding, and it just happens to take place in the world we left at the end of Wicked.

As an another reviewer pointed out, Liir is looking for himself and he starts with nothing to work with and that's the point. Because of how Liir is created as a character in Wicked, doing it in Oz in the wake of the death of the Witch works well. It provides an explanation for why Liir lack's a self conception and also provides a fantasy world in which he can develop that conception all without needing to completely rediscover and reexplain everything. The same could have been done by trying to place the story in the "real" world but frankly it works better placed in a fantasy world where the author can make anything happen.

Unlike others, I did not find the book boring at all and love Maguire's writing. In the end Son of a Witch may not be as good a book as the excellent Wicked but it is nevertheless very good and well worth reading. But again, Liir is not the same kind of character as Elphaba and more to the point, while the world may be the one we first entered in Wicked, the story is not. In other words, this is not a "sequel" so it is hardly surprising that some who loved the first book are disappointed in the second. Still, I suspect that most readers who come to the book without carrying to many preconceptions, particularly those who enjoy stories told through the means of fantasy worlds, will enjoy themselves.
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on September 27, 2005
If you weren't happy with the spin Wicked cast on Oz, the sequel is no more likely to please. Although Oz, of course, continues to be the backdrop and we even have some longer moments with Dorothy and her companions, Son of a Witch primarily develops Maguire's own threads from Wicked. Like Wicked, he picks and chooses elements from both the book and movie so neither can be seen as the exclusive source he's elaborating on (unlike the musical, which fits mostly with the movie). Some parts of the book seem vaguely related to the musical, though they may simply be the natural progression of ideas from the original. Of particular note, though, is some thematic similarity to the "Defying Gravity" idea.

This book also improves on some of the complaints raised with Wicked. Sex has been toned down, although those who felt it was "pornographic" may still be offended by it. More importantly, Son of the Witch is not packed with Maguire's own interpretation of evil and other themes. At times I felt like he didn't think the reader could figure out what he was trying to say without explaining it. The sequel is not so bogged down. Perhaps he has decided that interpretation is best left to the reader.

If you liked Wicked for it's postmodern glimpse at a nostalgic fairy tale and are intrigued by the questions left unanswered, I'd recommend this. If your problems with Wicked were Maguire's preachiness or descriptive sex scenes, you may find Son of a Witch more to your liking. However, Baum fans just looking for another magical journey in the land of Oz won't find it here.
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on May 8, 2006
After reading some of the reviews of those who hated "Son of a Witch," I felt it my duty to write in favor of Maguire's work and to address some of the points other reviewers brought up. If you hate the novel, that's your perrogative, but it also means that you missed the boat.

"Son of a Witch" isn't a "sequel" (Maguire himself professed this point to USA Today). Sequels suggest the same protagonist and usually antagonist. This tells the story of what happened in the aftermath of the death of the reknowned and powerful Elphaba Thropp, Wicked Witch of the West. If you read the novel without any preconceived expectations of what should or shouldn't be within it, the true nature is allowed to shine through.

Liir is, primarily, somewhat of an existentialist. He is searching for who he is and why he is alive. He has no tangible concept of "self" because he doesn't even have the knowledge of what all others in the novel take for granted: identity. He only has the remnants of what his maybe-mother Elphaba gave him, which isn't much. THAT in itself is why the reader MUST feel for Liir. He is a nameless, naive soul among a world extremely new to him.

As far as Candle goes, her chracter traits are fitting, believe it or not. Elphaba was a very strong female character in "Wicked," allowing Liir no real room for development. Candle had to be someone of meager, if not annoying, existence in order to allow Liir to become someone! Liir had only known the rages and rants of Elphaba's emotional and erratic behavior. Candle had to be just the opposite. This forced Liir to look into himself for his meaning, unlike when he was with Elphaba. She gave him his direction. Without her, Liir had to MAKE his direction. The only other female character who could hold a candle to Elphaba (no pun intended!) is missing throughout the entire story (Nor).

As far as the violence and Liir's sexual exploration, I feel that it was only expected. The only sentiment that Liir received from Elphaba were harsh and brash, though well-intended, comments and actions. This became Liir's definition of affection, because it was better than nothing (which he realized whenever he thought of Elphaba). The conflict with Trism and ultimate relationship further that idea. Hatred and love, as the saying goes, is only separated by a thin line. For Liir, there was no line. Hate and love were intertwined. He bore witness to this during his early life with Elphaba. Only through simultaneous love and hatred could Elphaba really cope with Frex, Glinda, Nanny, Liir, Sarima, Shell and even Fiyero.

In the end, I feel that "Son of a Witch" is worth reading. You must allow your mind to explore the possibilities alluded to within the text. A reader must always remember, as my college professor said, "Nothing in literature is accidental." Maquire gives you, as the reader, little pearls of possibility within his writing. My mind reeled at the possible true identity of Mother Yackle and the role she has played in both Elphaba and Liir's lives (her prescence is not minimal in scope, though it may be in words). As far as the ending, I felt the initial ping of unsatisfaction, but eventually felt sated. True, I do want to know how the loose ends Maguire left are tied, but if he did that in "Son of a Witch," he wouldn't be true to his style, now would he? He did answer one question about Elphaba and Liir's relationship that had been neither proved nor falsified. For now, that is enough. Maybe Maguire will take us on another trip to the wonderful world of Oz.
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VINE VOICEon October 8, 2005
Nobody could blame Gregory Maguire for wanting to write a sequel to 'Wicked' now that the musical smash has given the novel a second life.Yet the question begs to be asked: was it really needed? For me the book runs more in less in tandem with it's predecessor in both themes and interest. This time a young man, Liir, who may or may not be the son of the water logged witch of the West, sets out to find his possible half sister, his identity, and his destiny. Politics are still rampant with a nod to our current administration and culture in the U.S., as Oz seems gripped by with religious mania. The misleading element of this book is for anyone who has seen the "loosely based" musical and pick this up expecting the same light hearted fluff, will be in for a shock. The book I found, is slow going at times, and demands your undivided attention. It's also heavier themes of identity, courage, and self acceptence might turn some people off who are merely looking for an extension of either the original source material, or the Broadway show. However,if you're a fan of the original book, you'll probably find much to like in this as well. And by the end, he clearly sets the story up to continue if needed.
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VINE VOICEon January 29, 2006
"Son of a Witch" isn't perfect, and it probably isn't as good as its predecessor, "Wicked". So what? I get the distinct impression that Maguire isn't done with Oz yet, which would make "Son" the middle book of a trilogy - traditionally the weakest slot anyway. So I'm going easy on it.

Most of the weaknesses in this book become much more explainable, if not excusable, if you look at it as the placeholder that second books usually are. Liir, the main and title character in "Son", was a minor character from "Wicked" who is suddenly thrust front and center, and he's not really up to it. Particularly compared to the amazingly complex Elphaba, Liir is frustratingly one- (occasionally two-) dimensional, opaque and even dull at times. (This is even overlooking the parts when he's in a coma.) Candle, the novice who saves his life and becomes his sort-of romantic interest, is, if possible, even duller. Only Trism, Liir's army buddy (in the Brokeback sense of "buddy") has any depth or personality, and he doesn't become a major character until the last 1/4 of the book.

In addition, the story itself is somewhat vague and meandering. I finished the book not quite sure what the point was, except to fill in the gap of the ten years after Elphaba's death and set the stage for an anticipated third book. This is a typical middle-child problem in almost every series, so I'm used to it.

Now, enough kvetching. I really did enjoy this novel, as I enjoy most of Maguire's work. (Except "Mirror Mirror" - and this book was miles ahead of that snooze fest.) His Oz is as imaginative as L. Frank Baum's, if not more so. It doesn't entirely mesh with the original, but they do overlap in places. I guess you might call Maguire's books an alternate history of Oz. (And for the record, I highly, *highly* recommend that you READ both "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and "Wicked" before you read "Son". The movie and the musical are NOT the same as their source material! Reviewers who complain that they didn't "get" this book, but have only seen the Broadway play of "Wicked", have only themselves to blame.)

Even in his blandness, Liir is a sympathetic character. He is torn between his desire for a normal existence and loyalty to his possible mother, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Elphaba's followers keep turning to him, expecting him to pick up her causes and continue her legacy, but Liir is (at least at first) so markedly ordinary that it's easy to understand his frustration and the sense of hopelessness that occasionally threaten to paralyze him. Liir's journey from being moved along by outside events, to taking part in them, to shaping them and taking up Elphaba's torch (or at least her broom) make up the arc of this book, and the payoff at the end is both surprising and gratifying.

A chance encounter with a certain old woman, her four-horned cow, and a young boy named Tip should give fans of Baum's original series a good clue as to what's in store for the next book. (A hint that has me, if possible, even more excited about this series.) For those of you who haven't read "The Marvelous Land of Oz" (which you should - it's available for free on Project Gutenberg), the last sentence of "Son" should still be enough to give you a delightful thrill of anticipation.

No, "Son of a Witch" isn't Maguire's finest work. But it's still a darn good read, and it keeps the magic of Oz alive for one more go-around.
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VINE VOICEon December 14, 2005
Liir, the son of Elphaba Thropp, struggles with her demise and finding his place in the world in Gregory Maguire's "Son of a Witch." Confused about his parentage and seeking his niche, Liir strikes out on a series of adventures that bring him closer to finding his own path.

I have to say that I am pretty disappointed with this novel. I am a huge fan of Gregory Maguire's and I expected much more from him. My main issues with this novel were 1.) how incredibly dull it was. There was no real action, nothing truly moving or exciting to grab hold of. The story just kind of was there.

And 2.) why should I care about Liir? I kept asking myself that question throughout the entire book. Why do I care? He wasn't much of a character in "Wicked" but I was OK with that. I figured that he would attempt to prove his own worth, follow in Elphaba's steps, something that would make me care, one way or another, about Liir. Sadly, I never did.

Unfortunately, this book smacked of a giant marketing ploy. "Wicked" is wildly popular, why not capitalize on that popularity?

Get this book from the library if you must read it. Don't waste your dollars.
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on November 7, 2005
I opened my copy of Son of a Witch with great anticipation, having read Gregory Maguire's Wicked and loved it nearly 10 years ago. And, for the most part, it delivered.

I enjoyed much of the story, save for a few points, and tried my best not to compare it to Wicked, per I figured it wouldn't be exactly the same.

Where I find the book having fallen short was only that I would have enjoyed a story as steeped in political intrigue as Wicked, but in a different way. I can't state specifics without giving away major plot points in the book, but was left a little flat by certain 'foes' that Liir encountered along the way, and others that 'appeared' but weren't more major characters.

While Elphaba fought persecution for her 'differences' in Wicked, Liir fights persecution for his 'similarities' (or assumed similarities) to her in this novel....he was a well-drawn out character, and interesting to follow in his quest to determine his true identity and carry out his 'mission'....but...I still would have (had it been my book, which it wasn't) made more of certain characters that were carry-overs from the first novel, than I would have with new characters.

It's hard to say more without giving the story away. The ending sets up another sequel nicely, and gives PLENTY to think about with what you have learned along the way about Liir, his companions, and the magical world of OZ.

I give this book 4 stars for holding my interest, for being far better than Maguire's previous 2 novels, Lost and Mirror, Mirror; but take away a 5th star for a lack of true 'adventure'...which to me is what the world of OZ is all about.

However, if you have read Wicked, and are a fan of Maguire's adult fairy tales, read's a nice return for him to the subject matter that made him famous in the adult fiction market.
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on November 30, 2005
I think the problem most people had with this book was that it truly is not an extension of Wicked. It plays on some of the political themes and as one reviewer put it "weirdness" of Wicked, but it it's not the same character and the plot doesn't follow a similar path. I enjoyed reading it as a novel in and of itself. The middle did feel forced, but I actually got some enjoyment out of it anyway.

At first, I didn't like Liir's character, but honestly, I wasn't that impressed with Elphaba's character at first either. However, as the novel progressed, I got to know the character and the more mainstream population of Oz.

The political parallels with America were a little too obvious, as sometimes it's nice to read a book without allegory.

The last half of the book, I think made it worth reading. The love story was sweet and a little unpredictable as well as a little cliche, and I like the idea of Maguire continuing the story, as I was afraid he was going to try to conclude everything in the last twenty pages. Thank God he did not.

I was overall impressed with the novel, as I said, in and of itself, and was content when I closed the book.
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on January 8, 2006
I fell in love with Gregory Maguire's reconstruction of the world of OZ in the beautiful told, twisting story in "Wicked," telling the life of the late, great Wicked Witch of the West. And, I will admit, I felt sad, depressed, but enraptured at the end of that novel: I could not envision reading other book without the level-headedness and witty remarks that Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, spat out during it's course, and revived with an original, insightful retelling of an age-old classic.

Therefore, when I head that "Son of a Witch" was to be released, my heart started pouning. Could Maguire possibly revisit Oz with such heart and could ten years after "Wicked"?... And obviously he can. While a sequel to "Wicked" was essentially not need, it was inevitable considering the HUGE succes of the Broadway musical based on the novel (which is a delight to see...) and the fact that "Wicked" now has over 1 million copies in print...

**before i continue my review, i would like to make something clear that is NOT pointed out in many, many of these reviews: Liir DOES NOT know if he is truly Elphaba's plays a huge part throughout the book, the boy's inner stuggle about his heritage, and by accepting this fact before reading the novel would cause some of the book to lose its excitment and glamour...**

"Son of a Witch" begins where "Wicked," and "The Wizard of Oz," end: Liir, decides to accompany Dorthoy & Co. from Kiamo Ko (the Witch's castle) to the lovely Emerald City. From here the book branches of into many different plot lines: Liir is lying dead at a mauntrey, his story told through flashbacks as the beautiful, but mute, maunt Candel attempts to guide this man back to life... Liir searches through his possibly half-sister, Nor... He joins the army and meets an array of eclectic, enticing characters, mainy a young, handsome solider Trism who comes back into his life much later... haunting dragons and a Conference of Birds...

The book is epic and scoope, and while it's plot line twists and turns through many, many different tangents and storylines, it is not hard at ALL to follow the flow of action and the quick-hitting characters...Even in all its grandeour, "Son of a Witch" does not cast as effective a spell as "Wicked" does...scenes from the second half tend to drag a tad, and the some chapters could have used a little beefing up...

That said, Gregory Maguire is WONDERFULLY at writing subtle sentences that pack a whallop, found in many places, most notibly through a passionate love that grows, and the shocking ending...

And the ending is wonderfully: the last sentence of this book (only 4 words long) is one of the best endings I have ever read in my life...4 little words hold SO MUCH POWER in this book that it is utterly amazing. Oh, and it shows that another entry in the series is probably something very likely...

...lets just hope Maguire can wonderfully transport us back to Oz in sooner than ten years...
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