Once upon a time, long long ago, I found a book that had the title of Wicked and purported to be a rewrite of the L. Frank Baum stories about “The Wizard of Oz”. Wicked was a most fascinating tale. Telling the story from the viewpoint of the Wicked Witch of the West was, and is, a most inspired idea. I highly recommend this series of tales to any and all.
It is my practice, in these ‘reviews’ to refrain from retelling the story. No ‘spoilers’ here, I hope. Instead, I’m going to complain that G. Maguire did not write the story that I wanted. There are four novels. The first, Wicked, was superb. It was the sort of story that I wanted to read. The three novels that follow are necessary. In a certain way they are even more unpleasant than the first. But that is also a necessity. Moreover, you will not even notice the unpleasantness until after you finish the last book, even though I mention it now. There are aspects of the books that make the reader ‘uneasy’. They are suspense aspects. I’m talking about something else.
Consider your friends and family. Look at them objectively. They are all wicked, every one of them. And so with all the characters in Magurie’s tale. That’s what makes it rather unpleasant. They’re not evil Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde types. They are not intent on doing harm to others—well most of them are not. However, Magurie’s characters, like our families and friends, are incapable of understanding how their motives may harm others. And, like most people, it’s appearance that’s more important than reality.
I am guilty, too. I continually find myself doing that which, with 20/20 hindsight, I realize was not the best I could do for another person. I am very familiar with the problem, it being a major aspect of “The Human Condition”. If Maguire had written the whole story like I wanted it to turn out, it would have been like the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. Everyone sitting around the kitchen stove eating s’mores.
But this tale is about the fact that all are wicked. Still, in each of the characters, like real people, there is some goodness. That goodness does have a major part in how the story unfolds. Magurie does a wonderful job of making the contrast between that which is wicked and that which is good. He does not do this with point to point comparison. It’s just woven into the background. You won’t know it’s there. Then, all of a sudden, you will see it. Perhaps while you are reading the books. Perhaps years after you have read them. When you do, I hope you can re-read the four books. You’ll enjoy them even more.
Maguire’s genius is that the source of that which is wicked does not originate in Oz. The same is true of Earth. That which is wicked is brought into our world. The Greeks tell us about Pandora’s Box. The Jews tell us about Adam and Eve. We instinctively know that wickedness comes from the outside and worms its way into our hearts.