Book Review: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

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It is safe to say that probably everyone, child and adult, knows the tale of “The Wizard Of Oz” that tells the story of a girl from Kansas named Dorothy as she journeys in a magical world of Oz with “unique” looking companions. However, this book is definitely not a fairytale for children; in fact, it is intended for adults and adults only. In Wicked, I was allowed to meet “the real” Witch, as it were, from her childhood innocence, to her ungainly, evolutionary teen years at Shiz University, through her life’s great love affair, and on to her ultimate date with fate at the hands of a confused girl from Kansas. This person, this green girl, lived and breathed for me throughout the pages of Wicked. Gregory Maguire clearly sets out on an ambitious journey into the story that we grew up with, but by giving it a clever twist and fleshing out the characters we never got to know in the original Wizard of Oz. In my opinion, the book begins and ends very strongly, but the narrative sagged a bit in the middle, particularly in Chapter 4 but the pace picked up soon afterward; and from that point on, the novel receives its well-deserved finale, in which it goes out with a bold glory rarely seen in novels.

Don’t expect to read another take on Dorothy or her adventure in the “Wonderful Land of Oz“. She doesn’t even enter into the picture until the very end. What you will find is an incredibly imagined story for adults, full of humor, romance, and adventure. However, It’s important not to take very long breaks in reading this novel, as the details become more important toward the end, when the witch begins looking back upon her life.

~Rating~

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33 responses to this post.

  1. I liked Wicked, but I suppose not as much as you did (based on your review). I suppose it’s because I had very high expectations. When it comes to “revisionist” takes on tales we know from childhood, the one I swear by is Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples, which does so much more given its length.

    Oh, I do wholeheartedly agree with your observation about Maguire’s pacing, though. Personally, I thought that the chapters on Elphaba’s teen years were the best.

    Reply

  2. Posted by themcode on July 12, 2007 at 2:21 am

    I thought i saw some other books too that were written in the same way, a twist to known fairytale that is, are there other books like these or am i mistaken?

    I was curious on reading those books for the twist they add to the fairlytale, showing the ugly side of the moon.

    Thank you for writing this review.

    Reply

  3. Maguire has written a whole series of these books, including Lost, which is the Alice in Wonderland re-do, and Confessions of the Ugly Stepsister, a new take on Cinderella, and several others.

    I thought Wicked was the best of the lot, though. Did you know it was made into a very successful Broadway musical? Whoda thunk the wicked witch of the west from our childhood was an activist???

    Brian, I am reading Gaiman’s American Gods right now.

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  4. Having been a fan of Gaiman for a long time, I think American Gods is fairly predictable if you follow the rest of his work, mostly from Sandman. The sort-of follow-up to AG, Anansi Boys, isn’t too bad, either.

    Personally, where Gaiman is concerned I have a soft spot for Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett) and Neverwhere (which I think was his first novel).

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  5. Good Omens was the first one of his I read. My son loves reading this guy.

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  6. wow, sounds very interesting.. must give it a look 😉

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  7. Posted by Dukie on July 16, 2007 at 4:01 am

    Sounds very in-6e-rrres-6ing …

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  8. Very cool, I checked this book out a little while back!

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  9. Thanks for that.. I’ve been dying to know more about it,.. but it was too commercialized.. and u know how i get with mainstream (LOL always a black sheep)

    makes me want to check it out

    cheers

    Reply

  10. I haven’t watched Wicked yet

    Reply

  11. @Brian

    Well it was the first time I read this kind of a book so I was totally mesmerized by it.

    @The[M]Code

    You are totally welcome. I hope you give this one a chance…you will totally love it.

    @Intxpatr

    Yes yes I have seen the play and it was brilliant and glamorous. The totally experience was phenomenal. I heard that Confessions of the Ugly Stepsister is the next best thing, so I’ll definitely read it.

    @Swair

    You must indeed 🙂

    @Dukei

    And it is very “6e-rrres-6ing”.

    @Marzouq

    Tell me what you think about it when you get to read it.

    @Femme

    LOL, yes I know you are not a big fan of mainstream entertainment but I think this one will definitely suit your taste ^_^

    @Chloe

    My advice: read the book and then watch the play.

    Reply

  12. I loved this book. I cried harder at the end of this book, than I have ever cried before. It really hit me, to think that I “knew” the witch, and that, really, she wasn’t very wicked at all. And then, I was confused as to whether I believed the water was her baptism, or, her unfortunate demise, a mistake on the part of a scared girl.

    Again…I have never read a better book…

    LordTekrin@live.com

    Reply

  13. Posted by dmc on November 15, 2008 at 7:41 am

    I have not been able to find any reviews to support my feelings about Wicked.

    I really hated this book. It was dull and had no appeal. The character development was entirely too slow, as was the story line. And in case anyone cares, I don’t like Harry Potter either.

    Reply

    • Posted by E. Michael Martin on October 3, 2009 at 8:25 pm

      Oh, aren’t you just a negative Nancy, dmc? I’m sure you only read novels no one has heard of. Mainstream is just too common for a fancypants like yourself.

      Reply

    • Posted by Alyse Gurak on March 19, 2010 at 6:37 am

      Wow DMC you lack depth and human thought. The Harry Potter series are well thought out and impecably written. If you continue to complain about such dynamic stories, you should give evidence to prove your reasoning. J.K. Rowling spent endless hours in just naming her characters, JUST for litnerds like me to find their parallels and illusions. So next time you type, think.

      Reply

  14. Posted by jeff on October 19, 2009 at 8:37 am

    This was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Story lines that never lead anywhere, gratuitous sex in some parts, and a wicked witch who really isn’t wicked, just misunderstood. I’ve read other Maguire books, and I could only wish that he’d come up with his own stories and stop raping the classics of American literature. That may be a testament to his own lack of creativity. I’m tempted to write my own version of Wicked, because if this stinking pile can make money, there’s hope for me yet!

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  15. Posted by Tim on October 22, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I didn’t much like “Wicked” either. It was a slog, largely humorless and plodding. And except for some truly brilliant touches, like the Dragon Clock, it wasn’t very imaginative, really. The author just piaces a template of politics over Oz, creating all these factions and repressions and reprisals, which is really more dreary than thought-provoking. It did give a lot to think about (in terms of the nature of good and evil) but not much to enjoy. I did find the final chapters, the approach of Dorothy and her team, the confrontation with the Witch, the behavior of Liir, to be fun, exciting, a great payoff to a so-so book. I’m betting it was a short story that he spun into an endless novel.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Korihor on December 31, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Maguire’s a hack with a knack for pulling in simple minded malcontents like himself. Misery does love company. Strip away the fluffy word play and see it’s naked feebleness. Ironically, it is Maguire who is the Great Oz.

    Reply

  17. Posted by sddesi on January 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I agree that this was a sluggish, disjointed read. He threw in every negative societal plot plus the kitchen sink. Very few positive events ever happened in Oz according to this author. The land survived in a haze of bestiality, homosexuality, misunderstood youth, angst, political upheaval, medieval crazy, magic, talking animals and on and on and on. Rather than stick to one concept he meandered through every possible scenario. He made me dislike the old characters and their motivations; they were nearly unrecognizable from the original story. I absolutely hated the new poorly drawn characters as well. If they hadn’t made it into a successful play, this pile of overwritten slog would be in the dollar store.

    Reply

    • Posted by cocomcloven on April 8, 2010 at 11:22 pm

      I disagree. The author was not trying to really show off the wrongs in oz but show how this affected the witch her self. It was also to show the sadder side of humanity and our sannity. The book was a little slow towards certain parts but an enlightment. The morale of it is through our many failures we make at least one success which she did mange she made people aware of the problems in the world of oz.

      Reply

    • Posted by Mary on October 1, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      This Author is brilliant actually. Everyone has seen the glorious side of OZ. But everyone also knows that to every good, there is a bad. We all were introduced to the witch as an evil one, but he made it so we saw the good side of her. Give the guy some credit. He took the imagination and time to work around the famous story of “The wizard of OZ”. He made everything connect. Don’t you see? This whole story is a Subplot. You might now know what that is if you aren’t a writer. Which would probably explain the lack of appreciation for this novel.

      Reply

  18. Posted by Alyse Gurak on March 19, 2010 at 6:33 am

    I am in the midst of the book and am finding it dull and dry. I would much prefer a glittery happier version of Oz. Why can’t ONE revisional author write this characters as they should be?

    Reply

    • Posted by Christy on August 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

      Because it has already been done. If all they did was rewrite the original with no drastic changes to throw the reader off then no one would buy it. It is the fact that he and others take these classic stories and flip them on their heads and embrace a whole new way of thinking of it that makes it extraordinary. It seems to me that if you love the original characters so much then maybe you should stick to reading the ORIGINAL!

      Reply

  19. Posted by Mikki on April 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I love the book and musical Wicked. I do however, prefer the musical because I feel that it has much more lightness in it. I found that Elphaba’s struggles with understanding who she is and what her role on society was soming that everyone can relate to and the amout of love she has in her heart makes it truly heartbreaking to read her demise. I love Wicked and recommend it to all. Check out the musical if you like really good music.

    Reply

  20. Posted by cocomcloven on April 8, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I am a teen who read this book and found it very engaging. It shows how Elphaba is not the evil witch who just wanted her sisterd shows but a sensitive and realistic soul who had to realize lifes hardships early as a child. But towards the end she reviews her life and wonders if she could change things or should she. out of her failures it created heros such as the Cowardly Lion and her possible son Lirr. In the end though it tells us when she died it was not an end for her but a begging.

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  21. Posted by cocomcloven on April 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I meant beggining. sorry 🙂

    Reply

  22. Posted by athena on June 4, 2010 at 3:24 am

    I just finished the book and I was extremely disappointed. It was seriously one of the worst books I have read! I’m an avid reader and a big fan of the scifi/fantasy genre.

    I absolutely loved the musical and had high expectations for the book. However, the pace was awkward and the time jumps were constantly disorienting. I only finished the book in hopes of a redeeming ending, but the ending was unsatisfactory and rather pathetic.

    Elphaba fails at all her major life endeavors and a ridiculous number of loose ends are left. Macguire is unskilled at writing, especially when it comes to female characters.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Christy on August 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

    He left so many things unsaid for many reasons. For one thing he has 2 follow-up novels and I believe the final one on the way to address the “loose ends.” Oz, like our world, is far to complex to possibly be able to jam it all into one novel. So say she failed in all her endeavors… that depends on how you define failure. All she really wanted was for people to see the wrongs in ner world and do something about it. Purhaps if you continue with the follow-up novels (Son of a Witch, A Lion Amoung Men) you will see that not everything she ever did was a failure.

    Reply

  24. Posted by mikey on September 18, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Macquire never explained things. Always left the reader guessing. Some people find this to be cool, or art. Me, it is frustrating. I was hoping to learn why the girl was green, why water hurt her, etc.
    never explained. I was dissappointed how he painted the picture that she wasnt really a witch, or magical. Extremely boring. I would have written this book completely differently. What a whopping disappointment. This book is looooonnnnng, and doesnt really get to the point until the last chapters.
    H

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  25. Posted by Lee on October 25, 2010 at 10:46 am

    After desperately wanting to see the musical, I was convinced to read the b.ok. I enjoy the story of her childhood the most, I find Elphaba being a stoic child to be quite humorous, providing insight to how different she was inside and out, I am thoroughly intrigued by the explorations on the true nature of good and evil–which is the source of modern political theory (Poli Sci major). The need for laws in society are centered on this concept. However, Mcguire’s writing techniques (specifically the jargon) he goes back and forth between trending terms and terms that are rather archaic. He is not consistent with that. I do agree with everyone that the narrative does seem to drag in the middle of the storyline–Ive contributed that to him being OVERLY WORDY, unneccessarily.

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  26. i have never readthis boook but cud anione tell me how many scenes r in it???

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  27. Posted by Luis on March 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    To be honest, I don’t remember much about the author’s writing style because I was too absorbed by the story itself when I read it. I’ve read mostly negative comments about it and it’s a pity you guys couldn’t enjoy it. I strongly believe this book is a like a work of art. There are those who will despise it and there are those who will find it extremely amusing and mind blowing. Do forigive me if I’m a little bit snotty but the arts are meant to be enjoyed by everyonet only a few are able to, though!

    Ps: Please, when presenting your opinion why the book is dull, silly or whatever, do provide evidence or else your claim will ALWAYS be boring and irrelevant.

    Reply

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