Today’s post will be a review on “Out of Oz” by Gregory Maguire. This is the last in a series called the “Wicked Years”, based on “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” series by L. Frank Baum. It started with “Wicked”, which eventually became a Broadway show, followed by “Son of a Witch”, “Lion Among Men”, and finally, “Out of Oz”.
While I have read all 4 books recently, you won’t find reviews for them on this blog. The reason for this is, I read & fell in love with “Wicked” many years ago, but wasn’t that interested in finishing the series. Then I started this blog & compiled my “Books To Read” list & “Out of Oz” found its way on there…but I didn’t realize it was part of the “Wicked Years”. I thought it was a stand alone book. Once I realized it was the final book in the series, I re-read “Wicked” & finished the other books to get a fair understanding of what Maguire was trying to create.
Perhaps you’re thinking, why review “Out of Oz” at all, without bothering to have reviewed the other 3 books? I pondered over this & decided that as this is the final book, it made sense to put the nail in the “Wicked Years” coffin, if you will, with a final book review on the subject. As always, I will try to keep Spoilers to a minimum.
Hallelujah this series is OVER! I generally enjoy this genre, fantasy based on popular stories & given their own twist, but I had a tough time getting through this series. I really enjoyed “Wicked”, the Broadway musical is one of my favorite shows, but the series declined for me after that. I kept reading because I was curious to see where Maguire took the story, yet I can’t say I really enjoyed the journey.
“Out of Oz” starts out with a short summary of all the stories, family trees, maps of Oz, & a timeline of when each story took place in relation to each other. This reminded me of Tolkien/LOTR but was a bit redundant for me because I read the stories back to back so I had good retention of the timeline & how the characters were connected.
We meet Dorothy again & she’s transported back to OZ via the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Scenes like this are what make me love Maguire’s writing. He’s so clever in the way he took something that happened in real life & found a way to make it fit with his story. However, I was disappointed in his version of Dorothy. She’s not the brightest girl in the world & after the first mention of her, she disappears. 100 pages later, I was wondering if she was ever going to make another appearance. I suppose that makes sense though because this series is really not about Dorothy.
The book continues to tell the story of the political going ons in Oz & to be honest, some of it was confusing. At a certain point I felt like I was reading a political mystery with Fantasy characters & I lost interest because it’s just not my cup of tea.
Another aspect of the plot I was intrigued yet ultimately disappointed by was Maguire’s use of characters from the original L. Frank Baum series. I appreciate him incorporating the “real” history of Oz yet I feel like he could have made it even more his own. Without giving too much away, if you’re at all familiar with the original series, theres’s a huge spoiler in regards to one of the characters that kind of kills the whole story because you already know how it’s going to end.
Maguire ends the story with a cliff hanger & when I first read it I was annoyed because I felt like he was setting it up for another book, even though this one was marketed as the last in the series. However, after re-reading the first Quote I mention below, I have a new understanding of why he left it open-ended & I think it’s kind of…beautiful. He’s acknowledging the fact that this universe he created is going to “continue on” – in a fantasy universe obviously – even though the written story has ended.
– At the beginning of the book with the maps/timeline etc: “We believe the explanation we hear last. It’s one of the ways in which narrative influences our perception of truth. We crave finality, an end to interpretation, not seeing that this too, the tying up of all loose ends in the last chapter, is only a storytelling ruse. The device runs contrary to experience wouldn’t you say? Time never simplifies – it unravels and complicates. Guilty parties show up everywhere. The plot does nothing but thicken. – Michelle de Kretser, The Hamilton Case”
WOW! I love this. This quote really made me think. I ended up sharing it with a friend & we debated its meaning – that’s what I love about good literature. It should make you think, feel, & want to share it with others. To me, this speaks to the idea that these stories are their own universe & continue to change & grow even though we’ve closed the book & think it’s over. I could go into way more detail about my analysis of this quote, but I’ll just leave it for you to think about.
– Pg 544/567: I picked up on some song lyrics from “Wicked” the musical & the “Wizard of Oz” film being used as dialogue. Maguire is definitely the kind of author that would sneak in this kind of reference. I think it’s brilliant.
Nothing can compare to “Wicked” for me. “Son of a Witch” was pretty good, but I could barely maintain interest in “Lion Among Men” & “Out of Oz”. I think Maguire is a clever writer but sometimes I get tired of how he draws everything out. He puts a unique adult touch on his stories, however, sometimes the sex scenes are a little much for me. I also find it annoying that while many of the male characters are bisexual or gay, (kind of a SPOILER) there is potential for a lesbian love story that gets pushed aside as “unacceptable”. “Wicked” might have some staying power because of the musical, but otherwise I don’t think the series as a whole will be remembered for years to come like the original series or film.
As I’ve mentioned, quite a few times, I had a hard time getting through this book. I feel like “Best Selling Authors” especially in the Fantasy genre always write extremely long passages of descriptions that drag on & on & really serve no purpose. About 100 pages in, I was annoyed. If you like prose, great. If you like writing that’s a little more direct to the point – you might not enjoy this. I also had to rate this book down for the political nature of it – as I said, just not a genre I enjoy. If you’re interested in seeing a popular Fantasy story from a different, more adult angle, especially one that includes heavy descriptions & politics, you will enjoy this novel & series as a whole.
Have you read any of the books in the “Wicked Years” or seen “Wicked” the musical? If so, what are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!