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    Review of SON OF A WITCH by Gregory Maguire (see his website)

    ReganBooks, HarperCollins, October 2005

    The witch is dead. In the standard Wizard of Oz story, Dorothy heads back to Oz City, clicks her heels together and everyone is happy. But, what happened back in Oz? Author Gregory Maguire (see more reviews of novels by Maguire) re-imagines the Oz follow-on by wondering whether the wicked witch really was so bad, and positing that maybe she was simply an opposition leader, fighting against the usurping wizard and the hegemonistic control by Oz City of the rest of the land.

    In SON OF A WITCH, Liir might or might not be the son of the melted witch Elphaba. He travels with Dorothy back to Oz City but doesn't get to see the wizard. He does, however, get the cloak and the remains of the burned broomstick (the latter given to him by the scarecrow). Oz itself goes through a variety of governments beginning with Glinda, who has no sense of government at all, and ending with an Emperor who insists that he is the apostle of the Unnamed God. Meanwhile Liir investigates the dungeon city under Oz, makes a deal with a dying elephant/princess, and joins the army in an attempt to survive.

    While in the army, Liir is ordered to take part in atrocities aimed at provoking an uprising and wanders back to the witch's castle where he decides to join a congress of birds who just might be the people to oppose the new government--a government which may be using dragons to enforce its rule.

    I love the idea of the wicked witch being a resistance leader and SON OF A WITCH is filled with high impact images and concepts. Unfortunately, Maguire didn't really follow through on his high concept. Liir spent half the book in a coma, while we gradually learned his backstory through flashbacks, and the second half of the book wandering around trying to find himself. The lack of a clear story goal--of Liir, or any other character at all really trying to accomplish something--kept me from falling in love with this book the way I hoped I would, the way I wanted to when introduced to Maguire's concept.

    SON OF A WITCH is definitely worth reading. Maguire's lessons aren't really about a mythical land of Oz, but about the world we live in, where appearances may hide reality, where the strongest words of faith may disguise evil, and where no one is quite whom they seem to be. I would have found it a lot easier to get into the story, though, if Liir hadn't been content to simply wander most of his young life away.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 1/04/06

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