Now we end a double week of great book posts! I feel like I wanted to give this a higher rating, but considering how I rated the three books as opposed to Wicked, it makes sense that its only a four.
I’ve actually decided to buy a new copy of Wicked that is a clean copy and then to annotate the copy I have now, seriously annotate it at least, because it already has writing in it, and I really do love this book. The first book is, without a doubt, going to be on my list of my favorite books I read.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers Ahead
The Wicked Years series by Gregory Maguire
What I Liked:
Elphaba and her Legacy; Oh Elphaba. I adored her. It’s interesting to learn the story of a character from everyone around them instead of the character herself. In some ways that only aided to the legend and lends itself well to the ideas that this series was trying to get across. Through the books we see how Elphaba is the Wicked Witch but then understood as good. Watching how her legacy is viewed in history was exciting. Watching how her physical legacy of children and family, went on was was exciting. Elphaba was a perfect catalyst for showing and explaining what the books tried to show with stories and memories. Is she one of my favorite characters? No. Is her story one of my favorite? Yes.
Glinda and her Legacy; The Good Witch who is seen as naive and by the end of the series, locked up and later freed. Glinda’s story is an interesting one, as she opens, and willfully shuts her eyes again. I feel as if it was a foil to Elphaba’s in the way that when more people understood Elphaba, less understood Glinda, despite it being the opposite before. I do like the story that is told through Glinda, however, for it is one of ignorance, strength, and willful acceptance of the status quo. Was she right? Was she wrong? Who knows, but she did what she did and her story shows that.
Liir; Liir is probably my favorite character, spanning us over all four books. I just really enjoyed his story, and how he had to compete with his mother’s legacy as well as his own identity. In many ways, he’s the only reason I read books 2-4. Where as the story drove me for Wicked, Liir led me for 2-4. I can’t exactly explain why other than the fact that his character really struck me. We see him as a child, and then how he has to go through his life, and the struggle of it. Nothing really goes the way he wants and he’s fighting an uphill battle. I empathize with him a lot. I adore him. I truly do.
Mother/Sister Yackle; She’s a character that I hadn’t expected to find so fascinating. She is a tertiary character, not someone that really has substance or hold in most regards, but she is so important in Elphaba’s story and legacy. She exists and she exists because Elphaba needed her, past, present, future. She was also fun to read and I was thoroughly entertained by her dialogue.
Nor; I did like her, for what its worth. She was not my favorite character but I respect her journey.
Brrr; He grew on me as a character as time progressed. Also not my favorite, but I did appreciate him.
Rain; She was cute, charming, and had a story all her own. A favorite? Once again, not really, but her story for the last book was entertaining. I did like her story as a conclusion to the tale in general.
General Themes; For full list of Wicked‘s (the first book) themes go here. Otherwise.
Identity; This is a theme that is covered in all four books, particularly in the first two. It’s covered in different ways in all the books, and I feel as if it is the central theme within the series as a tying factor. Whereas, I’d say, History and Memory is the focus of Wicked, Identity and what it means to be a person (your person) is the focus of the series. All the characters go through some sort of identity crisis, and wonder what defines them as a person.
Cost of War; We see this far more prevalent in books 2-4 with how much is truly lost with the Oz wars, within and outside of the cities. Full peoples are destroyed and cultures are too.
Love and Family; This is primarily focused in all four books but around Elphaba’s family. From Elphaba to her father and mother, from Liir to Elphaba, and later Rain to Liir. Elphaba never really felt as if her father loved her the same as her sister or brother. She never really even thought she had love so she kept Liir at a distance, that kept him from truly believing he had family. He didn’t really take his own child, because he didn’t remember having sex in order to have the girl. Rain rejects her father, because she has never known them. In many ways this is a condition of their family line, where they don’t and can’t have each other as family. Their family is already a mess and creates the issues, but I think that it speaks deeper into the fact that if Elphaba had not been rejected as a baby by her own family, perhaps she would have not done the same for her children.
We get questions on love and family. What it means to love, what does love cost us, what does family mean. I think this book series touches on all of it, in many ways.
Beliefs and Ideologies; Ideas and beliefs change and this is proven through this series. The best example is Elphaba’s legacy. She is the Wicked Witch in her novel, and by the end a sort of martyr. Her legacy changed because the beliefs and ideologies of the world she had existed in, changed. This organic change happens to a lot of the characters throughout the series, and a lot of concepts as well.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Wicked vs Books 2-4; I’ve talked about this a lot to my friends but the first book is a very different read than the second through fourth books. Wicked is like reading literature, where there are theme bursting off the page and you look at what is said and understand that it will mean something later or has a deeper meaning to it. There are entire sections of the first book that I really didn’t understand until much much later. There are paragraphs set up for the themes, questions that are asked, and ideas proposed that blast off the page.
Wicked is written from the perspective of others. Elphaba has her voice at the beginning as “The Witch” and later as “The Witch” again. However for most of the book, and most of Elphaba’s life, we get the story through other’s eyes. Part one is her birth, and that’s told through her mother. Part two is school, and that’s told through her friends. Part three is her resistance, and that’s told through her lover. Part four is her penance, and that’s told through her perspective, but by the point we get it, Elphaba has been shaped by everyone else around her. We know her story through the eyes of others, and when we get her thoughts we know the events that shaped them but not exactly why she believes them. Its an interesting way of telling the story. We get parts, sections and highlights of her life, but not everything.
In comparison, Son of a Witch is Liir’s story as told in present time and the past. It goes over almost every detail from when he left with Dorothy to when he fell out of the sky. We get it in sequential order, with some time skips, and then the present happening in real time as well. When Liir wakes up the story progresses smoothly exactly from that point.
A Lion Among Men picks up where book two ended, with Brrr looking for Liir. We learn his backstory in flashbacks of him telling the story, and for the most part it is sequential too, we don’t get massive time skips or just focus on specific times and places. It is this, then this, then this, then this.
The last book Out of Oz does skip in time a bit more than either of the two previous. With Rain’s story we get some focus that is similar to the first book, but it is still generally more explained than Wicked was.
In Wicked we don’t get how Elphaba joined her group for resistance, we just see her when she is already close to her final mission. We don’t see her preparing for school or growing up or her time with the Sisters. The ending is a bit more sequential, like the rest of the series, yes, but I felt as if it still held it’s general feel with the shift from “Elphaba” as a name to “The Witch.” The other three books are far more sequential, this happened then this, then this.
It was a bit jarring to get a very different writing style. Where in Wicked foreshadowing was a lot, and themes were there in full, the other three books are written more traditionally. It’s like going between reading literature to reading a standard fantasy. Is one better than the other? No. But it is different. It feels different. Wicked feels like it has something it wants to say, and for you to understand, and has parts that are there that are confusing because they are tied to theme not necessarily story. Books two through four are story first and themes second. The themes are there and they support the story, but they aren’t as super present as the first is. Which is saying something because two through four does have a lot for themes when compared to other standard fantasy.
I’m not sure that I could have gotten the last three books to be written like the first. I’m not sure I want that at all, to be honest. I just wish I knew that it would be a writing shift, so I wasn’t so thrown off when I first started reading Son of a Witch.
Why You Should Read:
Read Wicked for the themes and the other three books for the characters. This is not to say the first book has weak characters, no. I simply believe that Wicked is a completely different story than the last three, and you have to go into it knowing that. If you want a standard fantasy where themes are present but not imbedded into nearly every page, then Wicked is not that book.
You should read this series because it is a fun experience and the characters are worth it, but if I were to recommend a book from this, it would only be book one. I think you should read Wicked because it is an interesting analysis in concepts of identity, evil, good, and the way in which we remember stories. The other three books are good, but one stands alone on its own.
If you have the time read it all, but I think Wicked can speak for itself.
Time Taken To Read
4 days 11hrs 37min