The conclusion to Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years series does not disappoint. The series began with Wicked (1995), and continued with Son of a Witch (2005) and A Lion Among Men (2008). Out of Oz does stand on its own, but readers will appreciate it most if they are fans of the series.
Adult/High School–The concept of an alternate universe has been introduced to generations of children through stories of the fanciful Land of Oz. Springing from the imagination of L. Frank Baum, and then transformed into one of the most popular movies of the 20th century, the sights and characters of Oz are both strange and familiar. With Gregory Maguire’s series, these same characters are once again re-created but in unexpected ways. Teens who know the musical Wicked will already know the backstory: The Wicked Witch of the West is not evil but impassioned by an unpopular sense of justice. In Maguire’s Oz, the Wicked Witch has a name, Elphaba. She is not a mean-spirited loner, but embroiled in complex family relationships. She has a secret lover and a secret child. The bare bones tale presented by the musical version, however, cheats the audience of the magical chemistry of Maguire’s prose. The books in this series are epical, following the friends, enemies, and descendants of Elphaba through adventure after adventure. By the time this fourth volume begins, the cast of characters has expanded to include old faces, such as Brrr (aka The Cowardly Lion), and new ones, most prominently Rain, Elphaba’s granddaughter. Maguire provides readers with a quick synopsis of the first three volumes, as well as plenty of filler details during the course of the book, so it’s possible to begin the journey with this final book. Teens who enjoy sophisticated fantasy laced with humor and social conscience will be greatly satisfied with this reprise of a childhood favorite.–Diane Colson, Palm Harbor Library, FL