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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West(Wicked Years, #1)
Tähtifantasia award nominee 2009.
When Dorothy triumphed over the so-called Wicked Witch of the West in Frank Baum's tales, we heard only Dorothy's side of the story. The Wicked Witch we think we know is the predictable, green-faced villainess straight out of MGM's imagination. But there's more to the story than that. Where did the Wicked Witch come from? How exactly was she wicked? Why shouldn't she want her sister's charmed shoes? And, most important, what is the true nature of evil?
Following the traditions of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Gardner, and J. R. R. Tolkien, Wicked is a richly woven tale that takes us to the other, darker side of the rainbow as novelist Gregory Maguire chronicles the Witch's odyssey through the complex world of Oz – where people call you wicked if you tell the truth.
Years before Dorothy and her dog crash-land, another little girl makes her presence known in Oz. This girl, Elphaba, is born with emerald green skin – no easy burden in a land as mean and poor as Oz, where superstition and magic are not strong enough to explain or overcome the natural disasters of flood and famine. But Elphaba is smart, and by the time she enters the university in Shiz, she becomes a member of a charmed circle of Oz's most promising young citizens: her roommate Glinda, a dippy socialite with a knack for sorcery; Boq, the lovelorn Munchkin; Fiyero, a tribal prince from the primitive West of Oz; and Nessarose, Elphaba's beautiful, religiously witchy sister, who lacks nothing save two arms and a spirit of compassion.
Elphaba's Oz is no utopia. The Wizard's secret police are everywhere. Animals – those creatures with voices, souls and minds – are threatened with exile. Young Elphaba, green and wild and misunderstood, is determined to protect the Animals – even if it means combating the mysterious Wizard, even if it means risking her single chance at romance. Ever wiser in guilt and sorrows, she can find herself grateful when the world declares her a witch. And she can even make herself glad for that young girl from Kansas.
In Wicked, Gregory Maguire has taken the largely unknown world of Oz and populated it with the power of his own imagination. Fast-paced, fantastically real, and supremely entertaining, this is a novel of vision and re-vision. Oz will never be the same again.
I'll keep this short and simple. If you're interested in reading check it out from the library. If you like it, prepare to be pulled into this revisionist telling of the land of Oz. It's mind blowing. I'd highly recommend anyone to read it.
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A friend of mine recommended this book to me, so my expectations were high. Soon, however, I began to despair of Maguire's style: his narrative moves very fast, leaves a lot (intentionally) untold, and gives very little access to the characters' motivations. We only get inside the Witch's head in the last quarter of the book, which I think is one of the weaknesses of Wicked, as it claims to be an exploration of the main character's relationship with good and evil.
There is a lot going on for a book of this length: lots of characters, political, religious and moral speculations, as well as other intriguing themes. None of these were developed even half-way of their potential which I found very disappointing.
I think a more thorough knowledge of the Oz books would have helped, as they would perhaps shed some light on details and plot twists that to me were mostly unnecessary and confusing.
On the plus side, I enjoyed Maguire's fluent writing and his unusual metaphors. If it hadn't been for these I probably would have put down the book after the first chapter and wouldn't have picked it up again.