Book Review: Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

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I really liked “Wicked” when I read it several years ago. I thought flipping the whole “Wicked Witch of the West” concept over was a clever idea that resulted in a great story. The following books (“Son of a Witch” and “A Lion Among Men“) were less satisfying with each page turn. “Out of Oz” follows the pattern of its predecessors, resulting in an unsatisfying conclusion.

The fourth volume focuses on Liir’s daughter Rain. Maguire sets her up to be a blank slate in the beginning of the book and is the reader’s point of view character up until the middle of the story. Rain’s parents hide her in Glinda’s estate until the tensions of the war blow over. Eventually (and obviously) Rain has to leave and spends the next quarter of the book walking around Oz with the Cowardly Lion not doing anything particularly interesting. Then the girl goes to school, echoing the Wicked Witch’s (Elphaba) education in the first book. The reader needs to get through 50% of the book before really getting to know the lead.

The war between the Emerald City and Munchkinland forces Rain to leave the school with her almost-boyfriend. They find their way back to the assembled cast from the previous books and are then broken apart to wander around some more. All of this wasted page space results in a massive amount of story being told in the last few chapters. The war comes to a climax and several completely unnecessary plot twists are introduced. The characters mope around because of said twists and then the book ends with no clear resolution.

Fundamentally, my issue with the book is the literal lack of direction. The majority of the story finds the characters wandering around avoiding conflict (and thus interest). “Out of Oz” suffers from poor chronology, which Maguire admits/addresses during the whole “Trial of Dorothy Gale” section; he casually mentions that several years pass between each chapter, but the end of the book Rain is said to be between 12-15. Due to one of the twists, it would be comforting to have a clearer idea of the girl’s age by the end of the book.

Maguire spends many words establishing the visuals and tone of Oz. He didn’t need to, the last three books already did a fine job of painting that picture. “Out of Oz” could have been excellent with the help of strong editing and a clearer focus on the end game. There seems to be an opening for another book, but I think I am done with Greg Maguire’s vision of Oz. If you haven’t read any of the books start and stop with “Wicked” and thank me later.

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