Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Son of a Witch - Gregory Maguire

Also Reviewed by Emily

Summary: Ten years after the publication of Wicked, beloved novelist Gregory Maguire returns at last to the land of Oz. There he introduces us to Liir, an adolescent boy last seen hiding in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Bruised, comatose, and left for dead in a gully, Liir is shattered in spirit as well as in form. But he is tended to at teh Cloister of Saint Glinda by the silent novice called Candle, who wills him back to life with her musical gifts. What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba's son? He has her broom and her cape--but what of her powers? Can he find his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in the forbidding prison, Southstairs? Can he fulfill the last wishes of a dying princess? In an Oz that, since the Wizard's departure, is under new and dangerous management, can Liir keep his head down long enough to grow up?

For countless fans who have been dazzled and entranced by Maguire's Oz, Son of a Witch is the rich reward they have awaited so long. (Summary from the back of the book and image from Powells Books.)

My Review: I'm going to admit right from the start: I didn't read Wicked before this one. I have seen the musical, but I know that's not the same thing as reading a book. If that could/should have changed how I review this book, please take note.

It took me a good 40 pages to get into the story because you're not sure who the protagonist is (unless you read the back of the book, which I didn't do...). The beginning skips between different characters giving the background of what got Liir into this situation. Once the ground work was set, I started to really get hooked on the story.

I was informed that in Wicked there was a sex scene. This book seemed free of them, which I was thankful for because I choose not to read stories with sex in them. Maguire alluded to a sexual experience in this book, but truthfully I didn't realize it had really occurred--this is either evidence of my oblivious naivety or that the story really meant to gloss over the experience despite it being crucial to the plot. Either way, I realized it was there (only about a paragraph) vaguely and kept enjoying the story.

Liir is trying to figure out who and what he is. He goes on many adventures and all the time is trying to understand his purpose and intentions for following through with each challenge. There are fantastic animals and characters in this strange world of Oz. There are many political parallels, but I'm afraid I'm not politically savvy enough to understand all the similarities to our world. The story is choked full of real life struggles for power, greed, lust, and fulfilling personal whims. Regardless of this, I enjoyed the story.

That is, until about the last 70 pages. Out of no where--or so it seemed to me--Maguire throws in a homosexual experience for Liir. He again is very vague, or I'm very dim-witted with these types of writings. It wasn't until the line about him learning how to ride a horse and how of all nights this was probably the worst time to learn to ride that I put everything together. And then I was ready to put the book down.

I decided to finish the book but determined to skip over any other sections that may have the same content. There is really only one other spot this is brought up again. I finished the book, happy to learn what happened to many of the questions mentioned in the summary above. But, I couldn't help but feel the story was compromised by what I saw as unnecessary content. It does play a part in Liir's confusion about himself and who he is (a major issue/theme of the story), so that is how it becomes integral to the plot. I felt there were enough situations and questions about his origins without this, but apparently Maguire did not. If this kind of content doesn't bother you, you'll probably thoroughly enjoy the story.

Rating: 2 Stars--only because of the random homosexual explorations. Otherwise, I would have given it 4 stars.

Sum it up in one phrase: A crazy world filled with surreal beings but with many parallels to ours--love, lust, greed, power, political corruptions, etc. A story of a young man's awakening.


Tubbs Family said...

I coincidentally started this book today at the dr. office, so it was hard to get into with the TV blaring. So its good to know that the plot picks up. I did read Wicked and was put off at the amount of sexual activity and innuendoes (there is alot). However, I’ve heard the play is very different. Anyway, thanks for review and the warning, I think I’ll continue reading perhaps with skimming the not so great parts 

Sweet Em said...

I am so glad for you summed this book up, "a story of a young man's awakening". That says perfectly what I couldn't put my finger on.

Having read "Wicked" I wanted to scream - WAKE UP, you are Elphaba's son, ACT LIKE IT - (whatever that means) and was frustrated by his wishy-washy-ness. But to view the book as a story of his awakening (which FINALLY occurs at the end) makes it more understandable. Your interpretation makes me even more excited to read the 3rd book "Lion Among Men" with the hopes that Liir shows some nobility.


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