Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West, is dead at the end of WICKED, Gregory Maguire's first Oz novel. In her later years, Elphaba traveled with Liir, a boy sent out with her when she left the Mauntery she had lived in for so long. Although she never asked why the boy was to accompany her, the rumor spread that Liir was the Witch's son. Now Liir travels from her grave, escorting Dorothy and her Scarecrow friend to a second conference with the Wizard. Liir can't quite figure out whether or not he cares for Dorothy. His adolescent urges seem to keep getting in the way. It is of little consequence, though, as Dorothy heads confidently off at one point, never to be seen again. Word reaches him that the Wizard has abdicated and Oz is in political turmoil.
Liir has his own agenda, not the least of which is simple survival. He is found crushed by the side of the road, the victim of a brutal attack, and brought back to the Mauntery to take advantage of whatever recuperative powers lie with the maunts. Candle, a young woman thought to be mute and slow-witted, is soon charged with Liir's care. Her haunting music soothes his soul and brings about in him a remarkable recovery --- and stirs something else besides. She has wise words to give him, along with her simple love.
However, Liir has yet to discover what his own purpose is, what will give meaning to his life. He leaves Candle with a weak promise to return. He sets as his priority the task of finding Nor, a girl from his childhood who may be his half-sister. But the world is filled with obstacles, and Liir encounters more than his share. It takes many years and innumerable pitfalls before he makes any real headway. All the while, he doubts that he ever will succeed at anything. At each predicament, he wonders: What would the Witch do if she were here? Unfortunately, whether he can puzzle out the answer or not, he feels inadequate in every way, knowing he isn't Elphaba, nor does he have her powers. But he may be in for a surprise.
SON OF A WITCH provides a whimsical forum for Maguire to espouse his political views. Despite being rather blatant, they are otherwise fairly benign. But the indulgences in gratuitous bloodshed, cruelty and some sexual peculiarities don't further the plot and seem superfluous. Still, looking behind the scenes of the Wizard of Oz story is marvelously intriguing. While Maguire didn't imagine the story quite like I would, it nonetheless is an extraordinary journey to the dark side of the Dorothy and Toto tale.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on September 27, 2005
Son of a Witch