It Ain't Easy Being Green...SON OF A WITCH.

Mar 21, 2010 (Updated Jan 11, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A fresh look at Oz through adult eyes.  Complex, fascintating characters drive the story.

Cons:Not many.  Lots of loose ends.

The Bottom Line: Fabulous adventure frought with political intrigue and the puzzling mazes of the human heart.

Son of a Witch by Gregory McGuire

"Elphaba Lives!"

Son of a Witch follows Wicked, the story of Elphaba, Wicked Witch of the West, and as such follows the adventures of her supposed son, Liir.  Following her dissolving, Liir accompanied Dorothy Gale, the Scare Crow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion back to the Emerald City, where his path diverged from theirs.  Liir is not a typical hero, being beset with doubt and low self image.  Perhaps this is normal for someone who grows up in the shadow of someone so much larger than life as was Elphaba Thropp.  Certainly, she would never win mother of the year awards; Liir is never sure that he is Elphaba's son until the end of the book.

Liir is also not a conventional hero.  Liir's most defining characteristic is a lack of strong characteristics.  He is very passive, and riddled with self doubt, and yet he manages, through lack of anything better to do, to continue a series of quests that ultimately help the troubled Land of Oz  The winds of fate entangle his life with the Princess Nostoya of the Skrow, an elephant, hiding as a woman, and unable to resume her true form as death approaches, Shell, his uncle, brother of the Wicked Witches and a serial rapist and drug pusher, The Convocation of Birds, a political alliance of the winged Animals of Oz disturbed by the sinister changes in the land, including a mysterious force that has them grounded, and is responsible for the "Scrapings" of several travelers, or facial scalpings.  He also nearly encounters death, and is nursed to health by Candle, a quadling maunt with an uncanny gift for music playing the domingon, and an ability to see the present.  His adventures lead him to Southstairs, the prison of Oz, to the Quadling countries, where he learns some duties have too high a price, and back home to Kiamo Ko.  He encounters Glinda Chauffery, interim leader of Oz, and continues his association with the Scarecrow.  He sires a child, and then loses his virginity to Trism bom Cavalish, handsome trainer of dragons.  He masters the broom, and eventually perhaps his own heart.

Liir is a man unused to love, but very used to losing it.  His overriding quest is to discover the fate of Nor, his childhood playmate, and if he is right about his parentage, his half sister.  He discovers Candle carries his child, asking nothing of him, and content to accept whatever he has to give.  And as they escape after an act of daring sabotage, he discovers love with another man, Trism, who is lost to him as well.  Even Candle is eventually lost to him.  And yet she leaves him with a gift far greater than the Witch's cape or broom.

This is not the Technicolor land of Oz we read as children, or that Judy Garland skipped through her gingham clad breasts leading the way.  This is a darker, more adult world, where the frivolous oddities of the children's classics are rooted in harsh realities, where the forces of politics and imperialism turns the Emerald City into a cancerous Rome, draining the life blood of Oz, and turning the Wicked Witch of the West into a hero of the Resistance.  Nothing in Liir's life works like a story book; destiny does not lead him smoothly through the chapters with a guiding sense of purpose, but instead he waffles and waits and moves when circumstance forces the issue.  He leaves a frayed hem of loose threads dangling in his wake.  He has what amounts to a real life.

Some people might look at this as a weakness; they say the story has no point.  They just don't know how to view it.  Instead, it builds the world from one point of view, and not an omniscient one.  Liir is like so many of us, not a hero, but someone who falls into the role because he was at the right place at the right time.

This audio edition is particularly enjoyable, since it is read by the author.  Nothing could give it a truer feel both to pronunciation, but to emotional tone.  Liir is a subtle dish, and having that veritas helps you feel the quite power of the character.


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