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A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years Paperback – August 25, 2009
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"Hardly more than a kitten . . . I had thought to call it Prrr, but it shivers more often than it purrs, so I call it Brrr instead."
Since Wicked was first published in 1995, millions of readers have discovered Gregory Maguire's fantastically encyclopedic Oz, a world filled with characters both familiar and new, darkly conceived and daringly reimagined. In the much-anticipated third volume of the Wicked Years, we return to Oz, seen now through the eyes of the Cowardly Lion—the once tiny cub defended by Elphaba in Wicked.
While civil war looms in Oz, a tetchy oracle named Yackle prepares for death. Before her final hour, an enigmatic figure known as Brrr—the Cowardly Lion—arrives searching for information about Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West. As payment, Yackle, who hovered on the sidelines of Elphaba's life, demands some answers of her own.
Brrr surrenders his story to the ailing maunt: Abandoned as a cub, his earliest memories are gluey hazes, and his path from infancy in the Great Gillikin Forest is no Yellow Brick Road. Seeking to redress an early mistake, he trudges through a swamp of ghosts, becomes implicated in a massacre of trolls, and falls in love with a forbidding Cat princess. In the wake of laws that oppress talking Animals, he avoids a jail sentence by agreeing to serve as a lackey to the war-mongering Emperor of Oz.
A Lion Among Men chronicles a battle of wits hastened by the Emerald City's approaching armies. What does the Lion know of the whereabouts of the Witch's boy, Liir? What can Yackle reveal about the auguries of the Clock of the Time Dragon? And what of the Grimmerie, the magic book that vanished as quickly as Elphaba? Is destiny ever arbitrary? Can those tarnished by infamy escape their sobriquets—cowardly, wicked, brainless, criminally earnest—to claim their own histories, to live honorably within their own skins before they're skinned alive?
At once a portrait of a would-be survivor and a panoramic glimpse of a world gone shrill with war fever, Gregory Maguire's new novel is written with the sympathy and power that have made his books contemporary classics.About the Author
Gregory Maguire is the bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years series, which includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.
A Letter from Gregory Maguire
Here it is: volume three in my series coming to be known as The Wicked Years. I have had such warm reader response to Wicked and Son of a Witch, both initially and in the years since, that the thought of adding to the series made me feel--well, cowardly. I resisted for a while. But courage comes to those who wait, sometimes: so here is volume three.
A Lion Among Men follows the peripatetic career of the Cowardly Lion. First seen in Wicked as a lion cub culled from his pride for the purpose of laboratory experimentation, the Lion (known as Brrr) makes his name in that little Matter of Dorothy about which all of Oz is still talking. But one doesn’t necessarily become lion-hearted by going after public approval, by racking up those medals and titles and golden statuettes at award ceremonies.
Tarnished with scandal of every stripe, Brrr is loathed by the Animals who believe he betrayed them in helping Dorothy do in the Witch. He fares no better trying to live as a lion among men. When civil war breaks out in Oz, Brrr is caught in the line of fire as he interviews the mysterious old oracle, Yackle, about the sources of Elphaba’s power. He must choose how much approval he can live without. A bit player all his life, he may yet be the linchpin on which the prosecution of the war rests.
When I travel abroad (and the continuing success of the musical Wicked has brought me to countries where it is now playing), I am sometimes met with bemusement about the origins of the material--a children’s book made famous by a musical film for children!--how can this serve as a proper metaphor for a meditation about predestination and free will, about political opportunism and personal valor?
Maybe, I say, you have to be an American to see that a vaudeville comedian in baggy lion-pajamas, as Burt Lahr seemed to me, has just as much right to inspire a story about the education of a hero as any Siegfried or Lancelot or Joan of Arc.
And if they reply, You have some nerve!I answer Thank you. I hope so.
And I do thank you for your lion-hearted confidence in these wicked novels.
-- Gregory--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The entertaining third installment of bestseller Maguire's Wicked Years series, a revisionist chronicle of L. Frank Baum's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, examines the tragically misunderstood life of the Cowardly Lion before and after his adventures with Dorothy and company. As all-out war looms between the Munchkinland guerrillas and the emperor of Oz's Emerald City soldiers, Brrr the lion, now working as an imperial spy, must somehow glean invaluable information from a crone named Yackle before she dies. But during his interrogation of the irritable oracle, Brrr, the proverbial loner and outsider, uncovers insights into his own mysterious past—and finally begins to understand what it feels like to belong. As usual, the author mixes some relatively weighty existential themes—the search for self, faith, redemption—into his whimsical story line. Newcomers to Maguire's Oz should probably begin with Wicked, the first entry in this darkly enchanting saga. 11-city author tour. (Oct. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
it is great to have an unknown character given life. greater still that this character is drawing together the strings which will bring the whole story together so well
ALAM doesn't have quite the impact of WICKED, but that is to be expected, WICKED being the first of the tetralogy which laid out Maguire's entire alternate mythos of Oz. Still, this third book holds its own in the series. The characterization of the Brrr the "Cowardly" Lion is keen: He's not cowardly, just thoughtfully indecisive, ambivalent about loyalties, and subject to blame no matter what he does, qualities often confused with cowardice. His low status as an Animal in Oz's caste system has obvious parallels in our world. ALAM has all the layers of the first two books, richly expanding on certain details and locations of Maguire's Oz. The separate threads of the book often seem unrelated to each other, but it all comes together in the very satisfying ending. The biggest detraction is the amount of space spent on Brrr's interrogation of Yackle, which could have been condensed a bit.
Here is what I liked about the book:
-We finally get to learn about Yackle, the mysterious oracle from the previous books, although this does raise more questions than it answers.
-There is a really interesting side story about the dwarf, the keeper of the Clock of the Time Dragon, and the mysterious girl in his company.
-The book sheds a bit more light on the events that occurred in Wicked and Son of a Witch, but don't expect too much illumination as to the fate of Liir and Candle in this volume.
-We get a little more detail about Dorothy's interactions in Maguire's version of Oz.
Here is what I disliked about the book:
-Brrr, the Cowardly Lion, is not a likeable character, much like Liir and Elphaba. A lot of his flaws are due to his naivety towards the world, which can be forgiven, but even after he gains some experience, he does some questionable, often selfish, things.
-Similar to the two previous books, nothing is really resolved in this book. Any answers we do get tend to create more questions. This may be because this is part 3 in a 4 book series, but as for this novel, do not expect any resolution.
In summary, I cannot recommend this book. Although there are some interesting parts, these are not worth the time reading the entire book. The book is slow-paced without any satisfying payoff.
Now onto "Out of Oz" (book 4) where hopefully we'll get some answers...
This book, particularly, felt needless, as it only barely touches on the Elphaba story. For me, Maguire has chosen to hand the story over to a witless, un-compelling character, forsaking the reason for his original success.