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.“
Synopsis according to Goodreads:
“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?
Wicked is definitely the best Gregory Maguire book I’ve read to date (I have 3 left to go, though). It weaves some subtle political and social commentary (from our own American current affairs, and past) into the well-known Baum Oz books, adding a rich depth to a story I don’t much care for. That’s right- I dislike The Wizard of Oz. You may commence with the booing.
Anyway, Wicked is well-written although, in his usual way, Maguire lets the reader connect the dots, and doesn’t exactly answer any of the mysteries he sets up. Elphaba is not a relatable character, or a likeable one, but he still manages to convey sympathy for her constantly-foiled attempts to do good.
In fact, I adore the musical, which distills this concept but sugar-coats it a lot more than the book. Don’t read this expecting a whimsical love story with Fiyero, a hate-to-love friendship with Glinda, or a happy ending. The book makes Elphaba not just misunderstood, but actually at times truly wicked for her lack of compassion, empathy, and wide-scope-view-of-the-world.
Ultimately, this is a musing on the nature of evil. With some pretty fleshed-out, three-dimensional (albeit not intimate to the reader) characters. I recommend it for fans of Gregory Maguire, the philosophy of morality, the Oz books, and political commentary with a flair of magic.