Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

This book probably needs little introduction for most avid readers. based on L. Frank Baum's classic Wizard of Oz series, it re-tells the story of Oz from the point of view of Elphaba, the little green girl who grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West. Maguire draws on Baum's entire Oz series in his world creation, not just the first volume most of us are familiar with from the movie, and he creates a vividly drawn world as riven by race and class issues as ours. Highlights of the story include Nanny, a childhood nurse who appears later in the novel and offers tantalizing glimpses of Elphaba's later childhood; her university friendship with the high-born Galinda who becomes the good witch, and her heartbreak in the Emerald City, which casts her once and for all into the fringes.

Maguire shows a logical progression to Elphaba's actions, and she never stops being a sympathetic character. I did find the novel fell apart a little for me toward the end, when events in the book start to mirror events in the movie. Maguire's Dorothy comes across as a bit of a Mary Sue, and the reactions to her from several characters rang false. But the book was, on the whole, a thoroughly enjoyabke one and I plowed throug it at record speed. I have the two sequels on my reading list next; I hope they are just as satisfying.

Fictionwise is advertising the ebook version as being 'packed with extras' including a reading group guide which I believe is in the print version too, and the original Wizard of Oz story on which this was based (and which is in the public domain and hence available at many internet freebie sites already). I like the concept of ebook extras and hope this evolves over time to offer ereaders actual incentive to pay the unreasonably high prices publishers seem to be demanding.

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