Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
By: Gregory Maguire
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Format of Book: Physical (Good ol’ crinking-pages, hardcover, hold-it-in-your-hands, smells-like-a book)
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is a clever take on L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. The reader gets to see the story from the Wicked Witch’s point of view. From start to finish, we learn more about the Witch, her roots, her life story, her struggles and joys. Is it possible to love a villain? Hey, is she even really a villain? That’s what this beautifully written novel does.
I absolutely love Wicked. This was my third time reading this book; each time I read it, I find at least one detail I missed from before. I enjoy reading books that give me a different perspective each time I read them. This is no different. Separated into five parts, this novel is incredible from start to finish. There are two sides to every story and Maguire gives us a compelling and rather artistically-worded version. Dare I say, I enjoy the story within this novel far more than I enjoy that of the musical of the same name that was based off of this book. I love the darkness and the beauty of each character.
The Final Countdown
Characterization – 4.5/5 Stars
The character development of Elphaba, our main character, is laid out to the very last detail from start to finish. Maguire takes us through the various stages of Elphaba’s life- from a little baby with terrifyingly sharp teeth, through teenage years and adulthood, until she meets Dorothy Gale. The thing that makes this book most enjoyable is how Maguire makes Elphaba into a character that the reader can relate to. I find it most interesting that it makes sense. This could be how the Wicked Witch was before that fateful meeting with the girl in the blue checkered dress and annoying little dog.
Throughout Elphaba’s story, we meet quite a few intriguing and mysterious characters; the beautiful Galinda with her upper-class life, Boq with his endearing persistance, Fiyero with his otherworldy ways, the Wizard with his agenda, and so many others. I fear giving too many names, as I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone.
Dialogue – 3.5/5 Stars
The dialogue in Wicked matches the wide array of characters that Maguire has introduced the reader to. The philosophical banter, moral questioning, heated arguments, and quirky jokes help drive the plot and characters along nicely. There are many times in Wicked that I found myself thinking, “Huh, I never thought about it that way” for various points characters would bring up. The argument of “What is evil?” comes up very often, each character sharing their perspectives.
Plot – 4.5/5 Stars
This book has it all – mystery, intrigue, tension, love and hate, life and death, darkness and light. There’s a lot going on, but Maguire shares this with the reader in such a way as to not become overwhelming. I enjoyed finding out where Elphaba came from, who her parents were, what it was like to grow up in her world, follow her through her time in school and see what was to become of her. Maguire raises questions of morality and religion and what the consequences of our actions are.
The best part of Wicked‘s plot is that there are no stereotypical plot devices used. This is a freshly told story that keeps the reader on their toes wondering what will happen next.
Visual Imagery – 3.5/5 Stars
The imagery in this story is well done. Maguire gives the reader enough detail to have a foundation but not so much that there is no need for imagination on the reader’s part. It’s amazing how Maguire can take a story like The Wizard of Oz that is so iconic and have his own take on what the land of Oz is like. He has an almost Tim Burton-esque view of this world he has adopted and made his own.
Ending 4.5/5 Stars
After 406 pages, I still didn’t want it to end. Luckily, it doesn’t have to just yet. Gregory Maguire has created a lovely little series of books to follow Wicked. While you know the ending of The Wizard of Oz, the ending of Wicked is like a whole new story. That’s all I will say about it. Other than, I love it.
Total: 20.5/25 Stars
Why read this book?
There’s a reason that I keep coming back to this book. It’s cumbersome in a wonderful way. I enjoy this version far more than The Wizard of Oz, but then again I’ve never been one for campy stories. There’s a little something in this story that I believe everyone can relate to, though the darkness interwoven throughout may not be for everyone. I love a book that can make you think. Give it a shot and keep an open mind.
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?