This is my fantasy month so it only made sense that I talk about a fantasy for this post. But honestly, that is a really hard book to decide on. As many of you know, I am a total fantasy junkie. And this is nothing new, I have always read a ton of fantasy. And there are plenty of really great and even some mediocre fantasy that I could review. Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings? The Chronicles of Narnia? The classics. But instead I decided to go with something on the newer end. Something I talk about pretty often and I haven't reviewed, The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire.
If you are unfamiliar with this name, you know it better as Wicked. Yes, that Wicked. The Defying Gravity musical about the witches of Oz before Dorothy arrived. But honestly, that's only the beginning of this series. Yes, that is the general plot of the first book. It's an origin story, a villain origin story about the Wicked Witch of the West. It's a much more self-contained story plot wise. It introduces us to the characters that we know and love from the original Wizard of Oz but in a new and different way. If you have seen the musical, I will say, it is very different. They are much more overt in their reference to characters beyond the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda. But it's still really cool to see the origin for these characters. And it also develops some of the unexplained questions from the original like why the witch is so wicked, why she wants the ruby slippers so bad, and why she's out west in Winkie territory. But my favorite thing is how dark it is. It's surprsingly complex and mature especially compared to the
The rest of the series is even more complex and mature. It focuses on the question of what happened in Oz once the Wicked Witch of the West is killed and the Wizard leaves. It also continues a lot of the big picture plot points that started in the first book. For that what I mean is that Oz is at war and there is a power struggle between who is going to control it. It's not the focus of the book but it's a big part of the world of the series. I think that it gives it this great combination of classic sword and sorcery kind of books and the more modern fantasy with political intrigue. Now don't get me wrong, it's not about scheming and plotting like some of the books with politics that I love but it does have a really interesting plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat with plenty of surprises.
The other thing that I really like about the series and the way it develops is the interconnection of the characters. I don't want to give too much away but considering that you can see by the title of the second book that this is about the descendants of the Wicked Witch. Or maybe you assumed it was about Glinda's son. Crap. Sorry. Spoiler alert? Whatever. Anyway, it's about Elphaba's descendants and kind of the lasting affects of her legacy on Oz. Each book you are interested to a new main character but you are able to connect with them because of their connection to the previous character. It's kind of an interesting way to structure a series and I really think it works. But it's not just the main characters, there is so much connection with secondary characters too. Certain ones appear throughout all the books where others make an appearance and then come back later in unexpected ways.
My only criticism of this series is the pacing. These are not fast reads. These are complex and long books that you need to slow down and take your time reading. It develops in a very methodical way as it takes us through the world and experiences of the characters. Now it's not a bad thing to have a slower paced book but it's not something that I prefer. It took me a long time to finish each of these books because I think it took me a long time to get into them. I think because each book has a different character and each book has to set up their story and how it connects to the larger story so it takes a little bit longer to get to "the good stuff." It's been awhile since I read them so I can't say if it's because there is a lot of exposition or why exactly this happens, but I do very distinctly remember it happening with every book in the series.
But on the whole, I really love this series. I'm a hug fan of Gregory Maguire and his retellings. He does such a great job in creating a new and unique story that captures the spirit and characters from the original book. This is the series that started it all for me. It's got great characters and a fascinating world. It's surprisingly complex and I loved the way it developed. It's a must read for fans of the original Wizard of Oz or fantasy fans.
I give The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire 9 out of 10 stars
There you have it. My thoughts on a book I read years ago, before I started blogging. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe got a case of nostalgia along with me. Have you read The WIcked Years? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!