First-class fairytale sequels, re-imaginings, and parodies are forming a quite successful trend in the realm of literature today. Neil Gaiman’s pen is dangerously viral when he rewrites tales we have come to love as children: his darker version of Snow White, Snow, Glass, and Apples, forever changed (in a deliciously twisted way) my perception of the bedtime story; his adult version of Troll Bridge still makes me shiver whenever I remember it. Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty erotica and Garth Nix’s grim take on Hansel and Gretel did the same thing to me, I swear I’ll never be able to think about those tales the same way again.
The abovementioned stories are on the first notches of my favorite retellings, and along with them goes Gregory Maguire’s revisionist Wicked.
Indeed, so much happened before Dorothy dropped in.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West zeroes in on the untold story of the green-skinned villain of L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Elpahaba. What makes her wicked? What is her connection to the Wizard and why does he want her dead? What role does Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, play in Elphaba’s life? You can find all the answers in this unconventional story that tackles the true concept of good and evil, love and friendship, religion, discrimination, magic, and politics all crammed up in an overly bizarre but wonderfully crafted setting—who would’ve thought that Oz could be so intricately beautiful?
That is one of Maguire’s strengths, I guess: he was able to effectively recalibrate the unexplored realm Baum created. Many readers, including myself, were dazzled by the phantasmagoric world and its equally surreal events.
I can’t say this book’s a real page-turner though because admittedly there were some parts that were a tad too dry to be able to fuel the readers to go on. I think that’s why some of my friends who borrowed the book never really finished it. XD The prose was at times too florid for my taste.
However, I have to admit that Maguire was able to establish his own milestone with this work, something that was completely separate from Baum’s success. He breathed into full life the characters that were propped up two-dimensionally in the original work (which is not a fault in itself, for the original work’s target audience is kids): the Munchkin(lander)s, the Wicked Witch of the East, and many more.
Despite its apparent flaws, I still enjoyed this book. I believe that any book, however weak the other elements may be, if it has drool-worthy, well-developed characters, will always stand out and emerge as a good work. Why, a character can pull the whole story with himself! That’s why Wicked will always be one of my favorites. The characters, and some of the philosophies that sent my thoughts about good and evil haywire—I will never forget those.
Three point five out of five stars for this!
(Wicked has sequels, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men)