Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire & Update

I thought, instead of double posting in the one day, I’d stick this in before my review of Wicked. I know I’ve been up and down with my posting when it comes to Writing on Wednesday. The reason is because I would like to keep trying to do it, but I think it’s about time that I accept the fact I’m not up to posting a regular meme each week. Writing, offline life in general, and health are getting the way, so until some free time opens up (which I’d probably allot to writing anyway) or I find a contributor for this blog who would like to do it, I’m going to stop continuing on with it. If anyone is interested in answering the past questions then you’re more than welcome to.

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence.

And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.


Wicked is an interesting read because on one hand it’s complex and so much detail is interwoven, bringing new elements together with old elements from the original story. It’s an aspect of the story I really enjoyed because at times connections were subtle, almost as a reference, and I do love seeing an old favourite or something I enjoy being referenced in such a way.

On the other hand, there was so much left by the wayside. For all its complexity, and for all its clever connections, Maguire leaves quite a lot unexplained and introduces different elements that don’t really go anywhere or don’t seem as if they are tied to something. It gives you the feeling of a book that will continue on with the story in a sequel, something of which I don’t mind if it’s not overly done, but in this case it feels like there’s about the same amount that gets left unexplained as there is for the explained. On top of that it feels that a lot of the unexplained isn’t leading to a sequel, but is just there for the sake of it, or possibly wasn’t considered important enough. Perhaps they weren’t that important on the whole, but there is enough there for the reader to notice and be left wondering about it afterwards, facts of characters and circumstance that feels they should be tidied up.

Wicked is also interesting because of its delivery. I haven’t read the original by Frank L. Baum, The Marvellous Land of Oz, but I know the story and that it is intended for children. I was curious to see not only how connections were made to tie in with the original, but also to see how it would be delivered seeing as Wicked is taking a story for an innocent audience and expanding it for a more mature one. To me it gives the feel of a dark fantasy crossed with Victorian mannerisms, almost pretentious and tame, but at the same time it had a crudity to it and felt as if the writer was almost ribbing himself and the characters. All of this adds to the difference and surrealism that is Oz.

I don’t know if I’d say that I thought it was wonderful, I did enjoy it to an extent and it is well written, but in parts it dragged for me and all those left over ‘bits’ were enough to mar it for me. There’s also the problem of including a scene that doesn’t quite give insight to a character, doesn’t further the plot, and doesn’t give another point of view about the story. The brothel scene that is placed in the story seems not only out of place, but unnecessary and that is something that irks me as a writer and makes me like the story less.

Wicked is one of those books that you have to read to understand for yourself and is also one of those books that shouldn’t be read as a recommendation by someone else, or avoided. This is a story that should be or shouldn’t be read based on what the reader feels and not given to bias or influence. I’ve come to this opinion because feelings towards it have been varied from sheer dislike, to indifference, to pure enjoyment. Decide for yourself and not based on what I or anyone else says.

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