I got a lot of reading done on vacation, so it’s time for another book review!
Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire is the 4th book in the Wicked… quadrilogy? I used to call it the Wicked Trilogy but then this book happened. I read Wicked quite a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I followed it up with Son of a Witch, which I LOVED. I thought it was almost better than Wicked, in fact. I had to wait a while, but I snapped up Lion Among Men shortly after it was released… and I hated it. It was so boring and the Cowardly Lion is such an irritating character, the book was no fun at all. When I found out Out of Oz was also about Lion, I decided I didn’t need to read it right away. I wish I hadn’t, though, for two reasons – one, it was much better than Lion Among Men, and two, I’d forgotten a lot of the characters and details from the first three books. Thank god for Wikipedia!
- The book is written in Gregory Maguire’s signature style, which I happen to enjoy. That’s a matter of personal taste, of course – I’m not sure it would appeal to everyone. Maguire has a unique vocabulary and his sentence structure is irregular. I like the way Maguire manipulates words but I can understand how it might be a difficult style to get used to – it’s not really easy to read, especially when you add in the odd names of characters and places. If it wasn’t so slick, and if the story wasn’t so good, I would probably think the style was contrived and accuse the author of being up his own ass (see: Genevieve Valentine).
- There are wonderful cameos from minor characters in the first three books. Wicked, Son of a Witch, and Out of Oz are all a generation apart, so it was fun to ‘catch up’ with these old characters. My favorite was Grommetik’s appearance in an antique store.
- The uncertainty. Though the perspective of the story is limited-omniscient, Maguire never reveals so much that the character’s motivations, political actions, or even deaths are very certain. It makes me think, it makes me wonder, and it makes me want to read more.
- The uncertainty! Yes, I know I just said it was a good thing. But this was the last book and I was hoping for some kind of closure at the end. The end… well, all of Maguire’s books seem to end on the same note – a giant question mark. Since this was supposedly the end of the series, I would have preferred to have SOMETHING wrapped up.
- It featured too much of Lion and I just don’t like that character! The book’s protagonist was Rain, a young girl who was very interesting, but she ended up in Lion’s care for far too many pages.
- Spoiler – I wanted both Rain and Tip and Liir and Trism to end up together. Love is a twisted thing in Maguire’s novels. It’s strong and beautiful but fleeting and ultimately empty. It’s an ache. That’s not a bad thing but I hoped for a happier ending this time.
- Wicked was based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and this book draws a lot of inspiration from Baum’s follow-up, The Marvelous Land of Oz. It recreates the overthrow of Emerald City, for example, and re-imagines the key players. I haven’t read Marvelous Land of Oz, which had its upside (it would have spoiled one of the biggest twists in Out of Oz for me) but caused me to miss cameos from Baum’s characters. I’d recommend reading Baum’s novels before you read Maguire’s books so that you get a deeper appreciation of how he turns those stories on their heads.
- Gregory Maguire had been writing children’s books for years before venturing into adult fiction, which may be why so many of his novels are re-tellings of classic fairy tales.
- Wicked was made into a very popular musical – you may have heard of it, it’s called… Wicked. Anyway, I read the book before I saw the musical and was surprised by how they dumbed the story down. The play removed all the sexuality from the book, which was one of the aspects I really enjoyed about it. There are sexual themes in his books, including homosexuality, transgenderism, and bisexuality – all of which he addresses in a respectful and mature way. Out of Oz was no different. Be prepared for that if you choose to read the Wicked Years series – a few people on Amazon didn’t know and were apparently horribly offended. Those people are probably awful but I guess it bears mentioning.
Would I Recommend It? Yes, but you really should read the first three Wicked Years books (and maybe the Baum novels, too) before you dive in to this one.
What’s Next? I’ve already finished Dead In Dallas and I’m currently wading through 100 Years of Solitude.