two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-SonWitchIn this sequel to Maguire’s Wicked (1995), we discover that Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West, had a son—maybe. Last seen locked in the kitchen with the Cowardly Lion as Dorothy mercilessly did away with his "Auntie Witch," the teenage Liir, now orphaned, has nowhere to go. With Elphaba’s cape and broom in hand but possessing no magical skills himself, he leaves her castle to answer some thorny questions about his parentage. He mysteriously awakens in the Cloister of St. Glinda, hurt and with no memory of how he got there but for a mute waif, Candle, whose musical gifts bring him back to life. Thus begins Liir’s fantastical quest for his heritage.
Regan Books. 338 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 0060548932

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Maguire has engaged in virtuoso fashion the very themes that turned what many considered a literary trifle into an American classic. … Son of a Witch is one of those rare books that, although not designed for children, absorbs us in ways that only childhood reading usually can, even as it refuses to let us take cover from the real world while we are reading it." Maria Tatar

Kansas City Star 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Although at times it feels like this book is not only a sequel but also a prolonged set-up for No. 3, we are happy to let it be. … While keeping many, many balls in the air— fantasy, reality, love and hate, hope and mistrust—Maguire catches us in his satirical web." Kate Ancell

San Antonio Exp-News 3 of 5 Stars
"Ultimately, though, it lacks the texture and balance of Maguire’s first Oz book; the underlying theme of determinism and personal responsibility is heavy-handed, with characters frequently pausing to ponder and discuss the problems of free will." Amanda Churchill-Bergman

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 2 of 5 Stars
"One of the critical hallmarks of a successful sequel is its ability to stand on its own. Son doesn’t. … Also lacking is the depth of psychological scrutiny that lent pathos to Elphaba, not to mention the political intrigue that made Wicked a commentary on the vast gray space bridging real-life good and evil." Mark Lowry

NY Times Book Review 1.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s a convoluted quest featuring love, loss and elves, with clear Broadway potential. … The original Oz characters have accreted so much mythology that it’s impossible for any novelist to make them his own. Maguire makes an accordingly clanky job of it." Sophie Harrison

Washington Post 1 of 5 Stars
"Except for getting out of the way of the odd chamber pot being emptied from on high, no one seems to know exactly what to do or where to go in this book. You get the feeling they’re simply milling around waiting for the next sequel to begin." Katherine A. Powers

Critical Summary

The best-selling Wicked, Maguire’s adult spin on L. Frank Baum’s classic, became a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical; by contrast, this sequel is a typical middle book, a bridge to a better novel to come, perhaps. Maguire introduces powerful, whimsical, and cruel characters and adds ethical and sexual complexities to the original story—if you can keep all the characters, flashbacks, and plots straight. Although Son, which starts where The Wizard of Oz leaves off, has the same wit and complex moral themes of its predecessor, they fall flatter here. Finally, though some readers will welcome Dorothy’s entrance, many will find the entire story too constructed for their taste. But the cliffhanger ending will keep them waiting for the third installment.

Where to Start

Wicked The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995): Our jaundiced Wicked Witch of the West is not who we think she is. Instead, she’s an insecure, inquisitive witch who tries to restore peace and harmony to Oz by unseating the corrupt Wizard.