Out of Oz ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
American writer Frank Baum created the Land of Oz in a popular series of children’s books in the early 1900s. Contemporary American writer Gregory Maguire takes Oz one step farther in his Wicked Years series of four books that are decidedly more for adults than for children. The first (and, I think, the best) book in the series is Wicked. It’s about the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. She’s the one that Dorothy Gale of Kansas kills by throwing a bucket of water on her. (Wicked, by the way, was turned into a famous Broadway musical.) The second book, Son of a Witch, is about Liir, the strange bisexual son of the Wicked Witch of the West. (Yes, she has a son—you have to read the book to see how that comes about.) Liir has a daughter, named Rain, who figures prominently in the fourth book in the series, Out of Oz. Just so we don’t fail to mention it, the third book is A Lion Among Men. It’s about (you guessed it) the Cowardly Lion.
Out of Oz begins with Rain as a child. She doesn’t know who she is or where she came from, but she’s living with (and being cared for) the Good Witch of the North, Lady Glinda. (You will recall, in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, Lady Glinda arrives in a bubble. She’s the one who eventually facilitates the return of Dorothy Gale to Kansas.) As the granddaughter of the Wicked Witch of the West (although she doesn’t know it yet), Rain has the potential to shape the empire with her as-yet untapped magical powers. A war is raging between Munchkinland and Loyal Oz. Both sides are seeking Rain, but especially a book of magic called the Grimmerie. It seems the Grimmerie will give a powerful strategic advantage to the side that has it. Through her bloodline, Rain is perhaps the only person in all of Oz who can know how to harness the power of the Grimmerie. It’s up to Rain’s parents, Liir and Candle, along with the Cowardly Lion and an assorted group of characters (Mr. Boss and his Munchkin wife Little Daffy, Iskinaary the Goose, etc.), to keep Rain and the Grimmerie from falling into the hands of the warring factions.
In Out of Oz, Dorothy Gale of Kansas has returned to Oz via the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and is being used as a pawn in the war between Loyal Oz and Munchkinland. She is being tried for murder in the deaths of the Wicked Witch of the East (you recall she accidentally landed her house on her) and the Wicked Witch of the West (death by a bucket of water). She is found guilty and is going to be executed until the Cowardly Lion and his crew rescue her and take her away with them. Dorothy gets on everybody’s nerves, as she is so chipper and always about to burst into song. I thought she was a fun character and would like to have seen more of her.
At 568 pages, Out of Oz is a long reading experience. It could have had more punch, I think, if it had been, say, 200 pages less. Possibly only those readers who have read the other three books in the series will want to stick with Out of Oz through to its conclusion. Maybe Gregory Maguire, in writing it, was following Oscar Wilde’s dictum: Nothing succeeds like excess.
Although Out of Oz is billed as the fourth and final book in the series, there seems to be plenty of potential material for a fifth book. If such a book comes out, I’ll be over my Out of Oz fatigue enough by then to want to read it, especially if it’s about 350 pages or less.
Copyright © 2012 by Allen Kopp