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A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Book 3) Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 14, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 267 customer reviews
Book 3 of 4 in the Wicked Years Series

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 14, 2008
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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."
—From Wicked

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

Dear friends,

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

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060548924
  • ASIN: B0035G01ZK
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (267 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,068,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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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.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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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.
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