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Merle

Merle

Out of Oz - Gregory Maguire This book disappointed me. The consensus appeared to be that it was much better than previous two books, and in fact, the first 100 pages were quite good. They’re from Glinda’s POV and recall the mood of Wicked, as Emerald City soldiers take over her estate and she can’t seem to do anything about it. But the next 300+ pages bring back Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men: aimless journeys around Oz, and a slow recounting of the childhood of Liir’s daughter, Rain. In the last 125 or so pages, the plot picks up, and most of the dangling threads from the previous books are resolved, only for Maguire to create new ambiguities and loose ends at the last minute.

Out of Oz starts six months after the end of A Lion Among Men--although the timeline is such a disaster in this book that Maguire ultimately renders it moot by telling us that Ozians can’t count years properly anyway (although this wasn’t a problem in Wicked)--and spans probably 6 to 8 years. More happens here than in the previous two books, but it’s also terribly bloated, at nearly twice the length of A Lion Among Men.

Rain, the protagonist, was the biggest disappointment for me. She’s a weird and distant kid that I never connected with. It doesn’t help that she is a kid throughout--8-ish at the beginning and maybe 15 by the end--and children are never Maguire’s best characters (the more of his books I read, the more I appreciate that he skipped Elphaba’s entire childhood in favor of her college years). And worse is his explicitly setting Rain up to replace Elphaba--which, first, is impossible, and second, tends to overwhelm what personality Rain has. As in the previous two books, the characters who got the least page time seemed the most interesting; I would have liked less of Rain, Liir and Brrr and more of Nor, Mombey (a wicked witch! hey, it worked last time) and Glinda. Although she’s still Ditzy Glinda from the musical, she’s become somehow endearing. And Dorothy is kind of funny, but less believable each time Maguire brings her back.

Then there’s some forced humor and references to songs from the musical and the Wizard of Oz movie, and a “show trial” that reads like a bunch of people arguing around the dinner table. And then there’s the ending. The loose ends didn’t bother me as much as they did other readers, but after all the political satire over the entire series, to end the story of Oz on the most tired of fantasy clichés was both out-of-place and disappointing. The Return of the Queen? Really?

Just barely 3 stars, then, because the book is entertaining enough, probably a bit more so than the previous two. (There’s a battle, involving dragons, so it can’t be all bad.) But I was hoping for more.