Book Review: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
Title: Son of a Witch
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: Regan Books
From: Barnes and Noble
The second in a saga of four novels, Gregory Maguire’s book Son of a Witch takes the life of Liir, the supposed son of the Wicked Witch of the West, and follows his life after the Witch melts. The book, published in 2005, is an exceptional sequel, part in thanks to Maguire’s imagination and literary decisions, and part in thanks to his waiting so long to build the sequel.
Maguire split the narrative between Liir in present tense and his past, using memories taken during a coma after he was mysteriously found close to death in the middle of nowhere. Religious women took him in and took care of him, but it was up to a novice girl named Candle to save him.
What I love about Maguire’s imagination is that he takes so many different ideas and builds a story with them. Very few storytellers could create an entire land like Oz, put cities, terrains, rivers all over the land, then create a history for that land. He adds characters with their own histories, animals and Animals with connections to cities and other characters, he adds political intrigue and how it affects the different characters. He includes the bloodlines of the original story from Wicked, including the Wicked Witch’s mother and brother. A saga itself is a difficult feat, but to make an entire alternate world, with its own spinning cogs and wheels, is enormous.
I never questioned the things in this specific story. Each character did things I wasn’t exactly expecting but seemed to fit. I understood why Liir felt the way he did toward Candle, toward the other characters, such as Trism Bon Cavalish and Commander Cherrystone, and especially toward himself. Just like he did with Elphaba in Wicked, Maguire looks deep inside Liir’s character and intentions to get at what makes him tick, what makes him do what he does and feel how he does.
If I’ve learned anything about writing, it’s that whatever a story is about, what it’s really about is the human mind and how it works. Any good work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or history is about why things happened, what was going on in someone’s head, how that was translated in actions. Maguire succeeds beyond anything with delving into the mind and bringing up the best and worst traits a person could have and publicly displaying them in black and white. That is a successful trait to have.
On the other hand, like I’ve said before with Maguire, he can sometimes ramble when it comes to certain details and storylines. I appreciate the description and feeling he puts into his work, but at times it gets bogged down. This was also my feeling in Wicked, but on a slightly smaller scale.
To say this is better than Wicked would be an incorrect statement. However, what is correct is that it is better in another way. Wicked is a contemporary classic, created into a Broadway musical and reused in many ways on television. Son of a Witch, in its own way, is unique and better as a continuation of the storyline Maguire dropped off in his first Wicked Years novel, Wicked. Son of a Witch, a clever name in relation to Liir’s relation to the Wicked Witch, is an extraordinary saga worth every second spent reading the smallest of words.
For more Gregory Maguire, check out his impressive list of fairy tale twists, available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.