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The Wicked Years #1

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

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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 arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

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.

An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.

406 pages, Paperback

First published September 29, 1995

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About the author

Gregory Maguire

128 books7,399 followers
Gregory Maguire is an American author, whose novels are revisionist retellings of children's stories (such as L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into Wicked). He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England (a non-profit educational charity).

Maguire has served as artist-in-residence at the Blue Mountain Center, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Hambidge Center. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 25,768 reviews
Profile Image for David.
44 reviews
December 8, 2010
I have a confession: I wanted to read this book because I saw the Broadway show, and the idea of a Broadway show based on a book based on a movie based on a political satire intrigued me. I heard the book and the show were quite different, so I wanted to see the difference.

The biggest difference is that the show is good, and the book is not. I don't want to be mean to the poor author (Gregory Maguire), who has made a fortune and franchise from this book and ones like it, but it's absolutely terrible. It's a fantastic idea, mind you, but the execution is... embarrassingly bad.

Oftentimes, I read a book and see ways I could never be a writer: the word choice, the cadence, the picture and world and emotions the author paints with language -- the distance between my ability to write a little song and, oh, Mozart.

This book, however, had me thinking differently. It had me thinking, "um, dude, I could totally do that." The characters are flat and stereotypical, the plot is jumpy and contrived, the dialogue is ridiculous, the tone is wildly inconsistent... when it tries to be funny it winks too much, when it tries to be a political tale it's too obvious, and... I could go on and on about its badness.

Take this passage, for example. Not only does it read like the author is framing each paragraph around a $5 word, but also the construction is, well, a little juvenile:

"Journalists, armed with the thesaurus and apocalyptic scriptures, fumbled and were defeated by it. 'A gulfy deliquescence of deranged and harnessed air'... 'a volcano of the invisible, darkly construed'...
     To the pleasure faithers with tiktok affections, it was the sound of clockworks uncoling their springs and running down at a terrible speed. It was the release of vengeful energy.
     To the essentialists, it seemed as if the world had suddenly found itself too crammed with life, with cells splitting by the billions, molecules uncoupling to annihilation, atoms shuddering and juggernauting in their casings.
     To the superstitious it was the collapsing of time. It was the oozing of the ills of the world into one crepuscular muscle, intent on stabbing the world to its core for once and for all.
     To the more traditionally religious it was the blitzkrieg of vengeful angel armies, the awful name of the Unnamed God sounding itself at last--surprise--and the evaporation of all hopes for mercy.
     One or two pretended to think it was squadrons of flying dragons overhead, trained for attack, breaking the sky from its moorings by the thrash of tripartite wings.
     In the wake of the destruction it caused, no one had the hubrir or courage (or the prior existence) to lie and claim to have known the act of terror for what it was: a wind twisted up in a vortical braid.
     In short: a tornado."

I mean, dear god! This is what trying too hard reads like.

The thing that really hurts about this book is that it's such a great IDEA. It *could have been* really really good. I think I finished it because I wanted to see if it ever got good. [It didn't.]

What it did do, however, was make the Broadway show that much more remarkable. First of all, the show changes some crucial details to make it, well, better (and shorter), but more importantly, it demonstrates that the musical theater folks saw something through Maguire's dreadful storytelling -- they saw that the crispy, chocolatey center was worth exploring. So they're already better musicians than me. Given the arc of the Broadway show, they're better writers than Maguire.

I put this book down when I was finished, a bit disappointed in myself for persevering. I picked up Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet and read the first page. That first page was, by itself, better written than the entirety of Wicked.

If you have any interest in this book, watch the original movie, read the book, then immediately go see the Broadway show with the original cast. That's right, the only decent way to experience this book is with time travel. Good luck.
Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
December 2, 2011
Instead of my usual griping style, we'll do this review in list form.

Things That I Really Wish Gregory Maguire Had Bothered To Explain That Might Have Made Wicked Worth Reading:
-Why Elphaba is green
-Why Elphaba cannot touch water
-The "Philosophy Club" which seemed to be some sort of bizarre sex club which was introduced towards the middle of the story, and then never mentioned again
-How it's physically possible that Elphaba gave birth to a son, but may actually not have, because she doesn't remember it. (Maguire's explanation is that she was drugged up on sedatives for the entire pregnancy and therefore cannot tell if she actually had a kid. Um...listen, Greg, I know you're a guy, but I assure you, there is no drug on this earth or on Oz that makes a woman unable to remember giving birth)
-What the hell the Clock of the Time Dragon was, and how it's able to give puppet shows revealing the Deep Dark Secrets of characters' pasts
-Why Elphaba wanted the magic slippers so much
-The backstory of the Scarecrow and why he hated the Wicked Witch of the West. (The Tin Man and Lion are explained, but I guess by the time he had to come up with a story for the Scarecrow, Maguire had used up all his creative juices. As a result, the Scarecrow just appears with the others at the witch's castle, and even Elphaba can't figure out why the hell he's there)

UPDATE: I didn't want to be a jerk about this, but I am forced to deliver the following public service announcement.

ATTENTION POTENTIAL COMMENTERS: I appreciate the fact that you wish to take time out of your busy to day to offer explanations for some or all of the questions I posed above. HOWEVER, before you do this, I advise you to read through ALL THE OTHER COMMENTS THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN POSTED explaining various aspects of the book that I am too stupid to grasp. IF, after reading every single comment, you still feel that you have something really original and startling to say that has not already been pointed out a million times, then please be my guest and post your comment. If not, please be aware that the book's many flaws have already been explained to me by dozens of people, and one more person telling me "it's a really good book, you just have to read it twenty times before you understand MaGuire's genius!" will not convince me to alter my one-star rating in any way.

Thank you, and have a nice day.
Profile Image for Claire Greene.
23 reviews65 followers
March 28, 2014
I hated this book. Maybe it was because I was expecting so much with all the hype, maybe because I thought the original idea was so great, whatever. End result, I freaking hated this book. This is a book that makes you want to sit down and re-write it yourself because it is such a shame that such a great idea was so mishandled. I loved the idea of delving into the witches and their past and seeing them from a different view point. I loved the idea of the politics of the different realms of OZ. There was so much source material to interpret in so many ways. But no - the biggest thing I hated was the timeline. It would start with the witches childhood and get really in depth into it - chapters of the family and their day to day lives and the family dynamic. And then it was like the author realized that if they continued on this way, the book would have to be a series and every book in it a tome. So the next thing you know, abruptly, he jumps forward in time. And the explanation of what happened in that gap is only briefly described - if that! It is so jarring. I also felt that the characters were fleshed out during those brief times, but after the jump, And then it would seem almost like they were different characters. Or a variation of the character you had come to know. If there were life altering events during the gap that changed the character's personality, you can't just skip it! Don't spend that much time making the reader get to know the character and then change them without showing how and why! I hated the way the author would spend enormous amounts of time describing certain places or characters or situations in a way that gave the reader the idea that it would be significant and play into the main story. Nope. Which makes you feel so unsatisfied. Imagine an entire chapter (and a long wordy one at that) devoted to a certain character or group of people and then then just drop out of the story completely. Where did they go? What happened to them? Why spend so much time on them to just go no where with it??

Also, after awhile, it really seemed like the author had a definite AGENDA and he spent so much time forcing the characters and the plot to fit that agenda, that it disrupted the flow and felt forced. I often felt like the characters wouldn't have acted that way - given his own description of them! I don't like being preached to. If you want to really write a political book with obvious leanings, then do so. But don't package it like this. And this book could have been a great vehicle for a basic statement on many different things - animal rights, our ideas of "others", our treatment of people different from ourselves, a broad idea of what is good and evil as opposed to what people often label good and evil - but didn't have to be so skewed to the author's personal beliefs. (Animal Farm, 1984, and many others come to mind - I really believe that this story COULD have had the potential to be a classic, had it not been so mishandled.) So many of these concepts were brought up and then abandoned. Or they were brought up and dealt with in a talky soliloquy, and without any real opposing view or anything. It was like the author was determined to present every possible political view he had and, one way or the other, force it into the story. But as he got writing and trying to actually write a STORY as opposed to an editorial opinion piece, he lost track of what he was saying or the point he was trying to make.

So many themes and ideas were a complete mess. Not explained fully, explained too fully, so vague and complicated they were impossible to understand, or more often than not, forgotten altogether. I would have appreciated ANY resolution - even skewed to the author's opinions - rather than what he often offered, which is nothing. It also felt so smug and superior - it seemed like he referenced things for the sake of feeling smart or proving he was informed- like a college student mentioning Nietzsche in conversation, not because he really wants to discuss the ideas or whatever, but because it sounds smart and proves he's beyond such things as keggers.

I just didn't like anything about this book. I stuck with it to the end, hoping that maybe things would change, or maybe things would come together in a way I didn't expect - but nope. I can only assume that it was so popular because of the interesting concept of the book or the fear to admit that they didn't get it or the broadway play - which I have heard is great and might better explain of the popularity of the book. (People loved the musical and bought the book thinking they would like that too.) Anyway, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
Profile Image for Max Ostrovsky.
564 reviews56 followers
June 27, 2007
From the first page, I couldn't put the book down. I loved it! And as my love for the book Wicked and the Wicked Witch of the West grew, my hatred for George Lucas grew in direct proportion. How could he have gotten it so wrong?
I never pretended to like the new trilogy. It could have been a new story. It could have really delved into the character of Darth Vader, or rather Anakin Skywalker and truly made him tragic.
Instead of trying to fool the audience into liking Anakin by hiring cute kids and bad actors, George Lucas could have created an interesting character. He could have told an actual story.
With Wicked, we get that.
Either a person has read the book or since we live in a culture of anti-reading, most likely has seen the movie. Regardless of which one, the Wicked Witch of the West is a pretty clear cut character.
She is evil. She is green. She is scary.
What Wicked does is take this evil, green and scary witch and turn her into a person we can like and love. And it doesn't do it in a cutesy way where we say to ourselves, "oh what a cute green baby."
She is born a freak. She was not only green, but she had teeth like a shark. And used them! Lost fingers, oh boy! And forget breast feeding!
She had a severe allergy to water.
Her upbringing wasn't too much better. She was outcast. She had to help raise and take care of her beautiful and crazily religious armless sister (who would eventually become the Wicked Witch of the East).
She was ostracized in school. Her roommate Galinda, who would eventually become Glinda, the good witch, could barely stand her.
And despite all that, we grow to like her. She's smart as a whip. She's funny and witty. She's sarcastic and actually quite fun. And she cares for all living creatures. Can you believe that? She even gets involved in a cause to help protect the capital A Animals (like the Lion, those that can talk), who are being rounded up, Nazi like, by the real bad guy of the story: The Wizard.
We see her take a lover and fall in love. We see her lose her lover.
The progress that leads to her becoming the Wicked Witch of the West is natural and logical. And even at the end, crazy as she became, we understand her and pity her, making her that much tragic.
What a treasure trove George Lucas could have used to truly show us a young Anakin Skywalker.
How about this (and I know I'm pilfering from Wicked a bit): What if Anakin Skywalker wasn't a cute kid? What if he was born disabled? What if to be mobile, he needed prosthetics to begin with? Oh sure, we'd still have that battle with Kenobi where he loses a whole lot more to become that scary guy in the black suit, but maybe he had to suffer his entire life being part machine. That'll make Kenobi's later line of "He's more machine now than man" even more poignant.
And maybe he's just a little angry about having mechanical parts? Maybe his first awareness of the force is through his anger. Of course, the beginning would be about how, on his own, through his own strength and integrity, he overcomes the anger and the dark, and chooses the light side of the force.
And he comes to grips with his deformity. And works on his charm and personality to such a degree that he wins a princess (or a queen, whatever).
He could even have a cause that he fights for. Anakin built C3PO, so why not take up for droid rights or some such? After all, he is part machine.
Why, oh why George, did you give us such crap?!
It could have been possible. And then we could have had a sci-fi examination and analysis of the origins of evil. We could have brought more depth and substance to a classic space opera.
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,297 followers
March 8, 2013
I’ve pretty much stopped buying lunch at my work cafeteria because no matter how often the description of the day’s entrée induces those salivary glands into action, the end result is always terribly disappointing. The food looks like it should be good—braised beef that seems savory, fresh-looking tomatoes to impart a robust flavor, colorful specks of herbs that hint of a certain deliciousness and make the tummy grumble. So it’s a fresh shock to the system almost every time when it turns out to be nothing but a ruse. Doesn’t it takes a special kind of talent to start with what appear to be such promising ingredients and to produce with them a dish as utterly bland and as pitifully uninspiring as that cafeteria food invariably turns out to be?

Well, doesn’t it?
Profile Image for Nina.
24 reviews18 followers
July 25, 2007
As far as fairy tales are concerned, adults recall them to be simple moral stories of how things go wrong if you want the wrong things. As fond of them as adults may be, the stories aren't often dissected, interpreted, or believed in for much farther than that.

The brilliance behind Maguire's books, is his capability of understanding that both the fantasy world and the real world can be united by infiltrating the mystical with hard situations, realistic emotions, and simple human spirit. Even in the realms he creates (some which are fantastical, others which are rather simple, and common earthly places) he manages to prove that no matter where you are, life happens. People get jealous, people feel resentments, and hurt. There isn't a sugarcoat and there isn't always a simple solution to everything.

He does not intend to create a pretty or perfect world. It seems rather, that he intends to take the perfect pretty worlds we are used to, and turns them into something we hate recognizing about ourselves. He fills his pages full of the things humans refuse to admit about themselves and in several cases he actually makes us sympathize with characters who we as children once hated.

It's easier to believe that there is a very blatant line between good and evil, do or don't do. In reality if things were so simple, wouldn't human beings find less struggles?

I love Wicked. The once negatively portrayed green queen of evil from Oz (as I liked to call her) is thrown into very sad situations, situations that seem so bizarre and yet, she feels things the same way we all do. It allowed me, to look at people I had once considered enemies, and see they had human nature built into them long before they became my "enemies", they had feelings that led them to wherever they happen to be now.

Many people might not find a cut and dry moral in this book, they may think it's dry, or that it fails to meet the standards of The Wizard of Oz. I'm not afraid at all to say this darlings... but we're not in Hollywood's Oz anymore.

Fact is, if you properly read Baum's original Oz books, Oz was a pretty morbid and cynical place. Aside from names and places; Wicked, The Wizard of Oz movies, or Baum's Oz books really don't have much to do with eachother. They have their own missions.

Just like Elphaba and Dorothy had their own missions.
Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,127 reviews3,551 followers
September 19, 2015
I love my physical edition of this novel...while the reading experience wasn't as good as always thought that it would be.


A thing that I got amazed when I started to "label" this book, in the process of my review, in my virtual shelves of Goodreads was how many different genres the novel touches... Politics, Religion, Romance, Humor, Fantasy, Magic, Mystery and even Espionage.

And I was very tempted to select Military too but I opted not.

And certainly the mood and themes of the story embraces all those genres and maybe more.

I knew about this book series some years ago while I was researching about the topic of Oz in general and since then I thought that it could be good to read it.


Some months ago (2013), by chance, I found this edition in a shelf of a local bookstore. I recognized the title of the book and I took it by impulse. The cover was gorgeous with the poster of the musical version BUT what stunned me was the detail that this particular edition has the edges of the pages colored in green...


Ah?! Honestly I can't think in something cooler to make irresistible this edition.

Those marvelous green edges on the pages of the book sold me the novel right away and I couldn't took back the book on the shelf. Thanks goodness the wicked magic of the credit card allowed me to go out of the bookstore with the novel.


Certainly when I started to read the book, I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore! Geez! The Cowardly Lion and the Tin Woodman kiss their mothers with those filthy mouths?! The introduction of the book is like a slap to the readers to make them understand quick and hard that this is indeed an adult book.

You know? I am not a prude, not in the least, but I think that Maguire made a hard effort to make sure that this will be an adult novel since I think that many of the issues touched here could work just the same without the need of some big words and sex scenes, while the drugs had to stay, hehehe, since indeed here the drugs played an important purpose on key moments.

It was like: "well since we have sex, drugs and rock n' roll (well no, no rock n' roll, really, not even on the musical version) this is a story for only we, the adults, sorry kids, you will have to keep busy with the Baum's cute books meanwhile you grow up some years."

Well, C.S. Lewis said that any children's tale that it can't be enjoyed by adults just the same, it's a poor children's tale.

So, facts of life... first, kids aren't dumb, they can understand heavy topics, even more the new generations that grow up with internet as nanny, and second, adults don't need sex, drugs and r... (you got it) to enjoy an intelligent story.


Since this is a really smart tale, but maybe I had some expectations that affect my final rating of the book.

First, there are really big "jumps" between the chapters and while there some unexpected turns and twists (that one can think that it's something good) but some of those twists were... ah? With him? Really? Geez! And romance left the building!

Later, I really expected an explanation of how a person can turn to be evil or be seen as evil, but Elphaba turned out to be wicked not as evil but as crazy and for reasons really odd.

Also, since the beginning there is something that I don't understand. Elphaba born with green skin, okay, HERE, in our beloved Kansas and the rest of the Earth around, it could be a real trouble but hey, they aren't in Kansas anymore, that's Oz, a land where animals can talk and people can do magic!

How odd really can be a person with green skin over there?

Honestly I could be more freak out for a talking goat or lion than watching a person with green skin.

Also, the green skin resulted an odd issue again at some point, you see, Elphaba is in hiding, but hey, she is walking around the city... how good can be in hiding for "several" years if she is supposed to be the only woman with green skin in all Oz?!

What? The Gale Force recluted colorblind people?! Geez!

Also, I have my theories about the physical problem of Nessarose (Elphaba's sister) but since it wasn't approached beyond of being just a birth defect, I don't see the point of her problem.

Even I think that the story was evolving quite fine until Maguire tried to put together his own story with the original story when Dorothy arrives to Oz.


Besides all my complaints, the book is still a smart vessel to touch sensitive topics of politics, religion and social interaction without worrying to be subjected to harsh critique since he smartly uses characters and themes in Oz and you have to deduce those allegories on your own and at the end, they will be your own ideas and not necessarily what the author wanted to say.

However, the book lacks of some action, all stuff happened in a very appeased tempo.

Nevertheless, I want to try in the future the other books by Maguire, on this Wicked series and his other stand-alone novels based on retellings of classic children's books.

Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
June 15, 2019
Dostoyevsky meets Frank Baum.

This was not as much fun as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies maybe because it is more revisionist than mash-up, parody or spoof.

This is actually, strangely a very mature work but set in Oz and from the perspective of Elpheba the wicked witch. But it was amusing, entertaining, thought provoking, head scratching, etc etc.

Published 2 years before Harry Potter and 4 years before Phantom Menace, the influence on both series is apparent. I did not love it, but this was a fun book and I may read more from him.

Profile Image for Keith.
8 reviews
August 2, 2007
This book as become increasingly popular, mostly due to the success of the musical by the same name. the truth is however, its not very good. There are many interesting and intriguing plotlines in the book, and you wait for them to be clerified, and expanded upon, but many never are. many fantastic characters are introduced, and are hinted at playing an important roll later in the book.. doesnt happen. the book doesnt even really give you the background you want on the witch. it is made clear from the beginning that she has an eversion to water, but you never find out why. there are some vague mentions of some connection to the ocean, but it is never followed through. You never even get a really Good explanation to why she is green!! that part of the story is very quick, and pretty unintersting. The book is full of cool little interesting things that you swear will play a part.. but dont. I really wish someone would take this book and expand it to its true potential. the idea for the story is so cool, but the ideas are just so unorganized that it was truly a let down. My advice, borrow the book, see the musical. it is completely different from the book, but the story is much more thought out. the most disappointing part of the book for me, whas the ending. just awful. very laim. its like the author gave up, and just let her melt. no explanation, no insight into the witch. now, Im being pretty harsh. I should say that I loved the beginning of this book.. the first half even. but.. well.. the last half..what a letdown.
Profile Image for Beth F.
354 reviews329 followers
December 16, 2008
Here is yet one more instance that supports the old adage that “hindsight is 20/20,” because had I known how much I’d have enjoyed this book, I’d have read it sooner. I have no one to blame but myself for taking all the negative reviews so seriously.

For starters, there are several types of people who should not read this book because it will make them angry. The biggest one is that group of folks who is opposed to S-E-X appearing in books. The sexy scenes in this book are not graphic. They aren’t hot. They aren’t anything except ye olde average sex scene that for most of us (who are over the age of consent) isn’t worth getting bent out of shape for.

And on top of all that, the book is also jam packed with all kinds of issues that make people uncomfortable: Politics. Religion. Science. Racism. Magic. The Occult. Sexism. Class-based societies. Etc.

Mix that with a cherished fairy tale that a majority of us have some childhood history with and you’ve got a sensitive subject. The story and the characters are one we’re all familiar with: Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion, etc. But in this novel, Maguire has taken these beloved characters and twisted them to suit his purposes. The final product is something you will either love or hate. As if the rating didn’t already say it, clearly I’m a fan.

I picked this book up because of the hype and had no expectations for reading any of the subsequent novels Maguire has published. But now that the book is over, I find my curiosity has been piqued and I wouldn’t mind following up with Son of a Witch to find out what happens next in the political fiasco in Oz and the surrounding territories.
Profile Image for Polly.
54 reviews11 followers
July 18, 2008
I’ve been trying to get through this book since last summer, and THANK GOD ON HIGH I finally finished it last night. Given that Wicked was popular with both critics and lay people, AND the fact that there’s a wildly successful stage play associated with it, I figured this book couldn’t possibly disappoint. And yet…

First, the themes/motifs were all. over. the. place. Animal rights, “otherness”, gender, good v. evil, and religion were the major players underlying the plot. And when I say underlying I mean thinly veiled by a meandering story. I kept thinking, he’s not really talking about animal rights or religion. He wouldn’t be that obvious. But he is. So much so that at times the story appeared to be merely a vehicle for positing his theories on that laundry list of Big Questions. Even then, I’m not sure what his theories are. It all seemed a bit pointless. I never could figure out where he stood on any of the issues, except for animal rights. He also seemed to jump from one theme to the next without any clear transition. Like the animal rights issue. It’s all over the first half of the book and then you don’t hear one single word about it until the last 40 pages or so. It’s like he thought, “oh yeah! I still need one more animal right allusion to make quota..."

Second, this book was toooooooooooooo long. The editor should have worked harder to reign in Gregory Maguire’s meanderings. I know I used that word about three sentences ago, but that’s what it felt like. He was rambling through his thoughts with me as the unfortunate tag-along.

Finally, this book told me absolutely nothing (save a few gossip-worthy details) about the Wicked Witch of the West that I couldn’t have figured out on my own. If it had ever crossed my mind to consider how the Witch ended up so Wicked, I could’ve saved myself the 406 pages and chalked her behavior up to the classic little girl lost. Poor WWW, she was so misunderstood and mistreated. Now she doesn’t know how to behave as an adult because she grew up with a very unsatisfying home life. It’s the story half of the current prison population could blame their troubles on, and quite frankly I expected more out of a book that received so much critical praise.

My advice: See the musical. I hear it’s fantastic. But then again, that’s what they said about the book.
Profile Image for Simona B.
892 reviews2,985 followers
March 24, 2016

Is it normal that it makes me so excited?

One week later.

Maybe the green edges set too high expectations.
I may or may or may not have skimmed through he last 150 pages (out of 520).
And now I really don't know what to say about this.

The writing is very rich, substanstial, and ther story seems, initially, to absorb such qualities itself, but right after you close the book you just know that, actually, it left you nothing. And while I know -I experienced- that this story is anything but flimsy, I wonder what went wrong. It's not even that I found it boring as many reviews say, it just told me nothing.

I think I will pick this up again in the future. But this time around, it uninterested me so much that I am speechless. For the wrong reasons.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
September 13, 2020
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years #1), Gregory Maguire, Douglas Smith (Illustrator)

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is a novel published in 1995, written by Gregory Maguire and illustrated by Douglas Smith.

The novel is a political, social, and ethical commentary on the nature of good and evil and takes place in the Land of Oz, in the years leading to Dorothy's arrival.

The story centers on Elphaba, the misunderstood green-skinned girl who grows up to become the notorious Wicked Witch of the West.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه ژانویه سال 2018میلادی

عنوان: شرور: جادوگر شرور (جادوگر خبیث غرب)؛

جادوگر خبیث غرب، یا «جاوگر منفور غرب» شخصیتی ساختگی، و شخصیت منفی اصلی مجموعه داستان «جادوگر شهر از» نوشته «ال. فرانک باوم» است، این شخصیت همچنین در دیگر کتاب‌های این سری نیز وجود دارد؛ با اینکه در داستان نخست می‌میرد؛ در داستان، دوم ساحره خوب (جادوگرهای جنوب و شما) و دو ساحره بد (جادوگرهای غرب و شرق) وجود دارند؛ شخصیت اصلی داستان دروتی، پس ازین که مدتی به عنوان برده برای او کار می‌کند، با ریختن یک سطل آب بر روی او وی را می‌کشد؛ جادوگر غرب از آب همواره وحشت داشته و آب دشمن وی بوده است

یک تفسیر سیاسی، اجتماعی و اخلاقی، درباره ماهیت خیر و شر است، و در سرزمین «اوز»، در سالهای منتهی به ورود «دوروتی» رخ میدهد؛ داستان در مورد الفابا، دختر سبز پوستی است، که به جادوگر بدنام غرب معروف میشود، «مکگوایر» نام «الفابا» را، از حروف اول «لیمن فرانک باوم (نویسنده ی جادوگر شهر اوز»، «ال.اف.بی» ایجاد کرد؛

داستان بر اساس موقعیت به پنج بخش گوناگون تقسیم شده است؛ در یک پیشگفتار «الفابا» در حال جاسوسی از «دوروتی» و دوستانش، و شنیدن شایعات آنها درباره او است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,226 followers
August 27, 2014
Busting out my born-and-raised Bostonian accent, let me just say, this is Wicked awesome!

Without taking itself too seriously, Gregory Maguire's Wicked takes Frank L. Baum's original work quite seriously, using reverential satire, witty wordplay and just plain silliness to tell a fan's version of the Wicked Witch of the West's backstory. Like a roaster lightly and lovingly giving the roastee a tender "going over", coddling his target out of a deep love and respect, Maguire delicately prods Baum's material, for instance, giving unintended meaning to or investing heavy with innuendo scenes and situations that the originator probably unintentionally left open to interpretation.

The book hinges upon the descent of the central character into a kind of madness. Maguire's Witch becomes a sort of Raskolnikov character, over thinking herself into believing her own mania, such as Dostoyevsky's anti-hero in Crime and Punishment. She is propelled by emotion, which she attempts to suppress, and an ideological movement, which she wholly embraces to the point of being enveloped by it. By the end, both have her wrapped within their choking grasp. Maguire's handling of this descent is relatively subtle. He takes his time to lay down some of the important breaking points in the Witch's life that eventually transform her from a little girl into a monster, a very real monster if not for the reasons she is perceived to be one.

I've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz only once and have seen The Wizard of Oz movie countless times, so my ideas of how the story goes is skewed towards the Hollywood version. That's good and bad. Good, because this is one of those times when the movie improved upon the source material. Specifically, the movie cuts out a lot of unnecessary fluff that bogs the book down. Bad, because the movie distorts some parts of the book. That's not really a problem, unless you're trying to remember what's what and who's who in this Land of Oz Frank L. Baum created. Maguire relies heavily on the reader already knowing this stuff. If you don't, you'll be a bit lost in a wealth of new characters and creatures coming from Baum's pre-existing fantasy world. Maguire's layering on of politics will probably drag down the story and bore you. Plus you won't be in on some of the jokes! So yes, I'm suggesting you read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz before attempting Wicked.

It's taken a while for me to get around to reading it myself. I was under the impression that its appeal was directed towards women, since they were the only ones reading it. Certainly it has a feminine slant. Most of the principle characters are female. The other inhibitor was that Wicked had been turned into an extremely popular Broadway hit, heralded by a seemingly undiscerning, Disney-loving mass. The number of reviews right here on Goodreads by folks who first saw the show, then read this book and gave it a scathing review, seemed to back that theory up. However, that they lambasted it as "too vulgar", "not like the show at all", "too long" and that the musical "summed up the first half of the book in an 8 minute long song!" made me realize this was probably a really good book worth reading. If it makes non-readers hold their nose and back away, that's the book for me!
Profile Image for Jen.
456 reviews5 followers
August 29, 2008
Don't waste your time! And don't let your teen read it. I kept reading to the bitter end of this book hoping that suddenly it would all come together in a glorious flash of beautiful, meaningful allegory that would make all the crap worth it. Not even. I was just really mad when I was done that I'd wasted so much time on it hoping that it'd pull through.

Not only did it delve into the kinky, it was just plain boring and didn't make sense to me.

If you're interested in it because of the broadway musical, don't bother either. The only similarity between the musical and this book are the basic identities of the characters. The storylines aren't even the same.
Profile Image for Amy.
210 reviews26 followers
January 11, 2008
I don't remember the original impetus for reading this book - I do recall discussing it with a particular friend, but whether I read it on her recommendation or because I wanted to all on my own I don't recall.

As is evident from my star-rating, I can't say that I liked this book. I did really like the first chapter, when Elphaba was this awful baby, with her terrible teeth and who would only say 'Horrors', as though she were an infant Kurtz. But each successive chapter I liked less and less, until I finally reached a point where I was reading the book only to finish it, not because I enjoyed it.

One of the main things that didn't work for me was that I felt the author did an inadequate job of introducing people to the world of Oz. While of course there the original Oz books for that, Gregory Maguire had to know that the majority of people who read this book were only familiar with the movie (or nowadays, I guess, the play). No doubt, this is why he kept the slippers ruby instead of silver (which they were in the original book). So an explanation of why it mattered that Turtle Heart (or whatever his name was - it was a while ago that I read this) was a Quadling, or what a Quadling actually is, would have been very much appreciated, and would be something that a more skilled author would have found a way to work into the narrative. Ditto an explanation of the tick-tock clock from the first chapter. If these things are not references to the L. Frank Baum books (which I never read; I'm a movie girl), then it is a double failure on Maguires part that there is no explanation in Wicked as to what these things mean.

Also, while I thought that the premise of the book was interesting - the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West - I don't think that Maguire really brought anything substantial to Elphaba's story. Her portrayal in Wicked does not jibe at all with the character from the movie. The idea that she would have been an outcast because her skin was green isn't terribly original - "It's not easy being green" having been done somewhat famously elsewhere. Besides being derivative, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense on its own, that in a land of Munchkins, talking Animals, Quadlings (whatever they may be) and magic, she would be outcast simply because she is green. Even if one were to accept that, the story presented in Wicked does not in any way explain the behavior portrayed by the same character in The Wizard of Oz - the one does not lead naturally to the other. While it must have been difficult for Maguire to write the book, that no matter where he wanted to go with the character, her ending was would always be the same, as an explanation of How She Got There, Wicked is a total failure.
Profile Image for Megan.
68 reviews8 followers
February 8, 2008
Ugh. Where do I start? I am giving this book one star, even though it appears that I am in the minority in thinking this. I got through the first couple of sections and I just couldn't stand it anymore. It was painful. I'm sure the Broadway musical is great; I really do want to see it some day. People who have seen the musical and have read the book too say that they are very different. I hope this is true. As I turned each page, I found myself skipping entire paragraphs out of sheer boredom. The only part that I liked was the prologue. In a great story, especially a fantasy, a reader should feel swept away, captivated by every sentence. Instead the author created a story where the characters are flat, uninteresting and usually perverted. Was it really necessary to add that to the Merry Old Land of Oz? The book is also full of politics and the author seems to go out of his way to show us how fancy his vocabulary is. I'm not impressed with his vocabulary. In fact, it's one of the most annoying things about this exceptionally annoying book. If you are expecting this book to be, as I was, a fantasy along the lines of L. Frank Baum's "Wizard of Oz" series, you are going to be very disappointed.
Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 6 books479 followers
May 13, 2008
Reviewed by K. Osborn Sullivan for TeensReadToo.com

Have you ever read a popular book and wondered why it was so popular? That's exactly how I felt as I worked my way through WICKED. Actually, that's not entirely true. I know why it's a New York Times Bestseller. Part of it has to do with the reason I picked the book up in the first place. I expected a light, fairy tale-like story. It's based on a children's book. There's a Broadway musical about it. Sounds like it should be fun, right? Uh, not quite. I get the feeling, though, that a lot of people thought as I did and bought WICKED looking for an easy-to-read lead-up to THE WIZARD OF OZ. I wonder how many of them finished reading the book when they figured out the truth?

Although to be fair, WICKED doubtless also owes some of its popularity to the fact that it's a well-written, literary novel that can be appreciated by well-read, literary-type people. Unfortunately, I'm really not one of those. Giving me a piece of deep, meaningful literature is like giving a copy of Hemingway's THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA to a manatee. In other words, I was disappointed. My disappointment was partly in the book for not fulfilling my expectations, and partly in myself for not being able to appreciate a quality literary effort.

In case you've been living in a hollowed out tree for the last couple of years and haven't heard about the play, WICKED is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West and how she became the Wicked Witch of the West. The book delves far deeper into the witch's life and times than any musical could in only two hours, however. In the book version of WICKED, readers are introduced to the witch, whose real name is Elphaba, when she is first born. She's green and has dangerous, pointy teeth. Needless to say, she's not too popular with the other children. Even her parents aren't too sure about her.

As the story progresses, we see Elphaba at college. She falls in with a number of fellow students, some of whom are more and others less accepting of the strange green girl. It's not just her skin color that's different, though. Elphaba thinks and acts differently than other people. And she has this aversion to water.... Well, we all know how that turns out for her.

The book is an interesting departure from the Oz books, including such details as why the Cowardly Lion is able to talk, and the fact that everyone in Oz thought Dorothy's dog, Toto, was the most irritating thing to ever draw breath. I wish, however, that I could have liked some of the characters. No one was particularly likeable, as far as I was concerned. Even Elphaba, who readers should have had some sympathy for, seemed odd to me, and I never understood her motivation for anything she did. In other words, I could have gotten over the fact that she was green, but it really bothered me that she didn't act normal. Also, a word of warning: Even though these are essentially fairy tale characters, this book treats them like adults, complete with sex, swearing, and the occasional murder. Younger readers should steer clear, and older readers should be aware of what's in store here.

In general, I recommend this book for OLDER readers who are huge fans of the Oz books or the Wicked play and want to go deeper. According to my husband, who is capable of appreciating fine literature, it also has literary merit. But for those of us who want to keep our memories of the Oz stories as sweet as the old Judy Garland film was, those readers might want to be careful around WICKED.
Profile Image for Dan.
78 reviews31 followers
November 4, 2013
This is one of my favorites. I generally like McGuire's books, but in my opinion this is by far the best of them.

After reading my teenaged years away through endless sci-fi/fantasy books where the characters are often painfully stereotypical "golden boys" (and they are almost always boys), it is refreshing to encounter a book where the protagonist is deeply flawed, but yet we respect her. The characters and interpersonal relationships in this book are complicated but leave you guessing about details that occur behind the scenes and curious about the tales that are left untold.

This is not to say that the complicated style never has its frustrations. There are occasional scenes which I still do not really understand, but for the most part these have merely increased the "re-readability" of this novel and kept me on my toes while reading. The story also does not make for easy reading due to some of these complications, and I could see the story turning off readers who might have been misled by the apparently fairy-tale-esq premise of the book into expecting something else.

McGuire slips in some of his philosophy seamlessly into the dialog and actions of the characters. There were moments when I would read through a sentence of apparently innocuous text, only to do a mental double-take seconds later, struck by how easily a profound statement was weaved into the story without pomp or preamble.

In my opinion, at the very least this is an entertaining book if you have ever watched The Wizard of Oz. But I also find it to be much more than just a good yarn.
Profile Image for Anne.
63 reviews
April 19, 2008
I enjoyed reading Wicked, but found it perplexing.

Maguire's Oz is a complex, political society, and his Wicked Witch Elphaba and her contemporaries are fascinating, moving, original characters--but the landscape and people are so far removed from their base story that the purpose of the reimagining, reworking seems lost to me. There's no particularly compelling reason to set this novel in the framework of Baum's Oz story; it doesn't gain anything by the association and it doesn't lend any insights to The Wizard of Oz, or the movie version either. It would have been a stellar standalone novel, but as a riff on TWoO I feel it fails.

Read Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and compare it to its source King Lear--it's similar enough to Lear in plot and characterization to be recognizably the same story, but her updated Goneril and Regan are given plausible motivation for their evil behavior, and Cordelia's saintliness, originally fairy-tale fodder, survives in more believable hypocrisy; this makes it interesting, the interplay between new interpretation and original work. Watch Clueless and then read Emma. Watch Bridget Jones's Diary and compare it with Pride and Prejudice. The similarities highlight the differences: a good reworking has enough resonance with the original to enhance meaning or warp it creatively. The problem with Wicked is that there's not enough character or plot similarity to lend any significance to the reworking: Maguire's unrecognizable Dorothy is a clueless, hateful bitch; Glinda is some kind of deluded sorority girl, and the events of the Wizard of Oz timeframe, (once the plot finishes its excellent backstory,) don't ring true because they have exactly nothing to do with the story we know barring the names.

It's a completely different story that could have been an excellent standalone novel on its own: change all the proper nouns and knock off the final quarter and it's stellar. Elphaba's tale is fascinating on its own, it's ill-served by the strained connection.
Profile Image for Marigold.
716 reviews
September 18, 2007
Very interesting book! Lots to like, and lots to dislike, but overall I enjoyed it, definitely wanted to keep reading, and found a lot to think about. What struck me most is the story of Elphaba alone. She starts life as an outcast for various reasons, & really never recovers, though she's bright, determined, brave, a good friend and caring family member, and in some ways sensitive, though self-involved. The book seems to cast her as someone of great promise despite her rough start in life. She's a star pupil and an activist, and seemingly a woman who can attract intelligent and powerful men. Then her lover dies & she really never gets over it. She spends years retired from the world, then searches out her lover's widow seeking forgiveness, which she never receives in a way that she can understand. She is followed by a little boy, who it seems is her son - and her dead lover the father - tho I'm not sure what the author is trying to say by making the son so much less than the sum of his parents! From this point Elphaba seems to deteriorate mentally. She becomes obsessed with recovering the ruby slippers and she wishes only to retire from life after getting them. She really doesn't accomplish anything with her life, which I found very sad. She pushes all her friends away, & her family members mostly die before she does. So why is she wicked? Because she doesn't follow the conventional path that Glinda does? I have an odd feeling that Maguire sort of punished Elphaba for having a happy sexual life with her lover. Elphaba's mother is portrayed as a woman with loose sexual morals, & look what happens to her - her children are born deformed in various ways, her husband mostly ignores her, her lover dies, she lives in squalor, & dies in childbirth! Ouch!
There's a lot of interesting background about Oz, its politics, sociology, & religions. I would have liked some of this more clearly laid out in the book. A lot of it felt pencilled in, & this makes it appear less interesting. I think Maguire could have made a more fully realized fantasy world; it feels like he backs away from it by only giving bits & pieces. There's discussion of the nature of good & evil that is a bit pedantic - but where he shows "good" and "evil" through Glinda & Elphaba, that's much more interesting because their portrayals mirror the relative nature of these concepts. Is Glinda good because she makes something of herself in the sense that she marries well, has money & social position, gives money to good causes, etc? Is Elphaba wicked because she's not interested in those things? Or is she wicked because she doesn't manage to accomplish anything "good"? Are the fates of these women pre-determined in classic fairy tale style, because one is ugly and the other beautiful? What about Elphaba's sister, the other "wicked witch"? Is she wicked because she is self righteous & wants to push her religious agenda? What does it mean that she's beautiful but literally armless? It's all very interesting.
On the other hand, the book is quite uneven - really well written in parts, then poorly written in others; unevenly paced so that parts feel very slow while other parts seem rushed; some details are very clear & sometimes overly belabored, other details are entirely left out, leaving you wondering what happened! Characters who are very important in one part of the book, end up becoming minor players, and the other way around. While I realize that this may be art reflecting life, I have to admit that I usually enjoy some "wrapping up of loose ends" when I'm reading! There's an implication that Elphaba's father may have been The Wizard, but that's all we find out about that - this is just one example of a loose end, there are many others throughout the book.
Like Elphaba, this book is beautiful in its way, & oddly fascinating - but somehow flawed and unfinished. But I'm very glad I read it & I'll probably read it again to pick up things I missed.
Profile Image for Francine.
126 reviews102 followers
October 25, 2011
I don't even know where to start. This book -- actually, the concept of this book -- had so much promise. This could've been a great revisionist retelling of the Wizard of Oz. Yes, it fleshed out Oz itself - what a rich land, people by various creatures: humans, animals and everything in between. The political and religious strata of Oz was well-thought out.

But I couldn't connect to any of the characters, especially the main character of Elphaba. I felt that none of them were fleshed out. None of them were likable, either in a positive or negative way. Sometimes, you're drawn to characters who are so evil because they're interesting. You become interested in their back story (and there is always one) and what makes them tick. Of course, almost everyone is drawn to the hero of the story, be they good or flawed, regardless of whether they're the hero-type or the underdog. But in my mind, while Elphaba was the center of the story, there was just nothing about her that drew me in, nothing that made me want to know her better. Nothing tugged at my heart strings or made me go "Grrr...I can't stand her!"

Maguire proselytized. Ad nauseum. To the point where I saw no point in going further with the book. While I can see that this work would appeal to some people who revel in exposition and live and breathe religious and political polemic (there are die-hard Wicked fans out there -- of the book, I mean, which is significantly different from the musical, and that has a large fan base as well) but sad to say, I am not one of them (a fan of the book). I think there's a place for everything, and when I pick up a book that purports to be about the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West, I expect a fantastical backstory about her.

And that's the thing. I know very little about her. She's green, but why is she green? She's got normal parents, but how did she become this freakish green baby with shark teeth? You know about her parents' dalliances, their religious fervor, their sexual proclivities, their societal vagaries. But you don't see how this shaped Elphaba. There are so many holes in the story, so many unanswered questions, and whenever I expected to find an answer, there were one or two vague, often nebulous, non-answers.

The story meandered all over the place, dropping characters here and there into the narrative -- characters that (one hopes) will enrich the characterization of Elphaba's life. Sometimes they did; most times, they didn't.

About a quarter of the way through, I wondered where this was all heading. About halfway through, I wanted to rip my hair out and beg for something -- anything -- to happen that would make me feel connected to our heroine or the story. But there was nothing. Not even a clock dragon to crawl into.

This novel could've done so much. It held so much promise. So much. But it failed to deliver, and at least for me, it was a supreme letdown.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,465 reviews9,619 followers
July 20, 2015

I thought this book was good and sad. I thought I had listened to it on tape years ago, but I didn't remember it at all.

I felt really sorry for Elphaba (the wicked witch of the west) because from the day she was born (green) she was not liked by her parents or too many people in the world. She was tolerated and a few choice people liked her. It's just like normal society where people are prejudiced against anything different. I'm guessing that would turn a lot of people wicked. But in my mind she wasn't really wicked. I thought she was awesome for fighting for the animals, as I am a wildlife activist. She always tried to be nice and be friends with people and they just shot her down.

I don't understand why her parents loved her younger sister so much. She was born with deformities but she was treated like a queen. It seemed odd to me, but maybe I missed something. Her sister did become the wicked witch of the east.

The book was strange in a lot of ways and I found myself thinking "what is going on" throughout a lot of the book. Even so, I very much loved reading about Elphaba's birth and life growing up.

I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series. I just hope I don't get too lost in those!

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Profile Image for F.
294 reviews252 followers
June 18, 2017
I don't know the wizard of oz very well so I am sure i missed some connections. Still really enjoyed this book. Loved the characters. Wasn't sure what was 'normal magic' and what was even Peculiar even to them.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,231 reviews1,140 followers
May 1, 2022
Jar of Death Pick #38

I finally finished it!

I started this book way back in 2020 but I quickly realized I wasn't in the mood for it, so I did a soft DNF. I wanted to pick it up several times between then and when I actually finished it but I knew I wasn't in the right mood yet. For me timing is everything.

Wicked is the "true story" of the life and times of the late great Wicked Witch of the West. As I read this over the last week or so, I realized something....I really like stories set in the world of The Wizard of Oz. I've read and watched several such pieces of media....and yet I've never read the original book series.

How is it that I've watched 3 different silent movie versions of Oz but I've never read the original???

I've even watch that awful movie Oz the Great and Powerful(I think that's the name but I don't care enough to check) but I've never read the original book???

Anyway back to Wicked.

I think I would have enjoyed this more if I hadn't seen the musical. That musical is perfection and the book just pales in comparison. Not to say this isn't a good book because it is. It's just not the musical.

I also think part of my problem with book is that I don't really vibe with Gregory Maguire's writing style. I can't put my finger on what bothers me about but something does. I own another book by him, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and I think I'll read that to further flesh out my thoughts.

Overall I did like this book, Elphaba was such an interesting and cool character. Depending on how I feel after read that other Maguire novel I might pick up the other book in this series.
March 25, 2017

Read a book with nonhuman characters.

2.5 stars

"'Listen to me, sister,' she said. 'Remember this: Nothing is written in the stars. Not these stars, nor any others. No one controls your destiny.'"

I have never ever been more frustrated while reading a book. As most of you know from my continuous status updates describing my turmoil at my insistence that I NEVER EVER DNF anything, I had a really hard time getting into this one. It was boring and academic, and I would constantly find myself falling asleep while reading. Excuse me, Mr. Maguire, but when you want to market your book as fantasy, please give your book a plot. A real plot involving action and intrigue and drama. Not pages and pages and pages of description of political plots that make absolutely no sense. I wanted to like this book so much. SO MUCH. But it's such a case of an amazing premise being swallowed whole by an author's ambition and preoccupation with style.

On the plus side, I really loved the character of Elphaba. She was strong and intelligent and never strayed from her values and beliefs. Her romance with Fiyero was very deep and realistically portrayed, and the emotions and feelings that tied into that relationship were my favorite part of the novel. And that's saying something because of me and my you know, cold black cynical heart. And the romantic subplot only lasted for maybe 40-50 pages of the entire novel but made the most lasting impression on me. Some of the supporting characters, such as Fiyero and Boq were interesting and dynamic enough also, but for the most part, the other characters were pretty flat.

God, did I say how disappointing this novel was? Because there were moments of sheer brilliance within these pages, but most of the time I was just so effing bored. When Maguire was on, he was very on. And the satire and political and social commentary was so good and interesting and thought-provoking. Things like this:
"The more civilized we become, the more horrendous our entertainments."

"'The real thing about evil,' said the Witch at the doorway, 'isn't any of what you said. You figure out one side of it--the human side, say--and the eternal side goes into shadow. Or, vice-versa. It's like the old saw: What does a dragon in its shell look like? Well no one can ever tell, for as soon as you break the shell to see, the dragon is no longer in its shell. The real disaster of this inquiry is that it is the nature of evil to be secret.'"

But every single time I caught some brilliance here, it was countered by boring writing, lack of imagination, and bizarre world-building. I even read the original tale in order to get an idea of the original world this novel was built on, and I became even more confused by it. I am hoping that a read of Baum's other Oz tales may shed some more light on his rendering of Oz. I certainly hope so. There were people and events mentioned in this book that were never explained and that frustrated the hell out of me. If they aren't important to the story, WHY HAVE THEM TAKE UP SPACE? UGH!

And seriously? The conflict between the witch and Dorothy was only because Glinda gave Dorothy the shoes that Elphaba wanted? And Elphaba only wanted them because her father made them and they were promised to her. Seriously??? Well, I have read this one and the original, and I loved Elphaba more than I ever loved Dorothy so, I kinda think that Dorothy's a bitch now. Take that, Judy Garland! You shoulda just given her the damn shoes.

All in all, this book frustrated me and confused me and gave me a headache, but it wasn't all bad. There was some juicy meat, but Maguire's dry style of writing made it hard to get to. I have heard from several friends both on here and in real life that Son of a Witch is much much better than this one, so I think I will give it a shot at some point.

And we all know what happens to the Wicked Witch, so the ending is not a spoiler, but I was upset nonetheless. Why do we have to hate on people who are different? Who stand up for themselves and for those who can't fight? Why do we love the beautiful and hate the ugly? Elphaba, you get on with your bad green self. You made this girl love you.
Profile Image for Seth T..
Author 5 books863 followers
March 8, 2012
I had the vaguely unique opportunity to approach MacGuire's most famous work without any immediate familiarity with his source material. I had neither read L. Baum's original work nor seen the Judy Garland vehicle. Certainly, some of the Oz mythos has filtered down into society at large over the years and I am broadly aware of some of the stories more famous bits.

I knew of the yellow brick road—upon which I presumed the entire tale took place. I knew of the ruby slippers, though little more than that such shoes were extant. I knew that Dorothy arrived in a house that crushed a witch and have in mind the image of two spindly legs clothed in candy-cane-striped socks emerged from beneath its deadly weight. I knew of a quest for a heart, a brain, and some other thing. Perhaps a spleen. I knew that the villain melted and suspected it was due to some sort of molecular aquaphobia. And I knew that one ought pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Oh. And that flying monkeys apparently played some role.

With that in mind, I can say that MacGuire crafts a tale that takes a path down a road that with few exceptions is easy enough for even an Oz Neophyte to follow without getting lost. I did occasionally wonder what happened to seemingly significant characters with whom the narrative seemed to grow weary and decided to abandon outright, never to be seen again. Case file: the Scarecrow and the Woodsman. Both seem to carry some narrative force and even feature prominently in the prologue. But Macguire leaves them apart and away from Dorothy and Elphaba near the climax and never returns to them or their presumed plight. I was not quite sure of their function in the story then save perhaps because lore required their presence.

But other wise, yes. Wicked carves a narrative path that is simple enough for even a newcomer to follow. Unfortunately, the path—which began in earnest and promised great sights and breathtaking vistas—becomes dull and plodding and any number of things that a desirable trek would hope to avoid.

Plainly then? Wicked loses steam in its first third and never regains its spirit. It becomes, in a word, boring.

I was engaged-if-perplexed in the first section, in which we are introduced to the infant Elphaba and her deleteriously bankrupt family. I was excited throughout her college years as she first learns to relate (or attempts to do so) with classmates and experiences tastes of the wider world of ideas and ideals. This second section of MacGuire's journey is easily his strongest work here and he creates a likable, mischievous cast with which Elphaba might parry and riposte. He hints at great things to come and struggles for which Elphaba and her friends have only just begun to take up arms.

Unfortunately, it all falls apart immediately upon Elphaba's abandonment of her education.

Not only does Elphie cease to develop in constructive ways, but her story becomes a shambles, never gaining the traction required to make the reader care. Oh, there are moments that hint of the things that could have been—the elephant queen, Liir's involvement with the great fish, Nor's experience of flight. Alas, these all remain as undeveloped and unevolved as the philosophical content at which the novel toys (the level of thoughtfulness is comparable to what one might find in a dormroom in which five college sophomores launch into outspoken dissertations on the nature of our reality fueled only by second-rate marijuana and a subconscious desire to feel important).

MacGuire's Wicked is, in the final reckoning, deeply unsatisfying. Which is really too bad as the book is as long as a Harry Potter tome—only minus the fun.
Profile Image for Felice Laverne.
Author 1 book3,204 followers
October 7, 2016
3.5 stars - It was a bit strange and wasn't really what I thought it was going to be, but it was entertaining enough.
Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
June 7, 2018
Alas, I'm getting rid of this book to make room for others. no ... my wife took it, read it, loved it, kept it!

I really can't recommend any book more highly than I do this one! Take it to the beach!

okay, I will admit that I have no idea about how someone who has no idea what The Wizard of Oz story is about would react to the book ...

This is a great read, in my opinion far better than the follow-up books he wrote. Everyone is familiar with the story of The Wizard of Oz, and Maguire has such a fantastic idea of writing the life story of a rather minor, though important, character in that tale. Not only that, but from an utterly frightening, "bad" character in the former story, he has morphed her into someone who we are very sympathetic towards, and who we care about deeply (at least I did). This was one of my very favorite books of the few years around the time that I read it.

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