I’ve just finished Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This was recommended to me by Beth, who hasn’t actually read it, but who heard it was good. I was a little iffy on it when I bought it; I’ve never been a fan of the movie version of The Wizard of Oz and I’ve never read the original L. Frank Baum books. Don’t even get me started on The Wiz.
But, that said, the book was actually quite good. I’ve always enjoyed books written from the viewpoint of the under represented antagonist of a classic book. My best example of this is Grendel by John Gardner, based on the bad guy in Beowulf. I’ve even been thinking about doing this for NaNoWriMo. Maybe the Book of Judas or something about the Queen of Hearts from the Alice books.
This was one of those books that drew me right in. It covers a lot of ground: How the Wizard came to power, detailed overviews of the politics of Oz, and how the Wicked Witch of the West, named Elphaba, came to have green skin (her parents were evidently human). Amusingly, the Wicked Witch of the East was born without arms; from the movie, we had no idea what she looked like except she had legs. Plus, Elphaba (her name is drawn from the initials of her creator. L. F. B., get it?) was Glenda’s roommate in college, and they were pretty good friends right up until Elphaba died.
Of course she wasn’t really Wicked, that was basically a rumor spread by the Wizard since she was a freedom fighter, holding back the armies of Oz from taking over the land in which she lives. She really wasn’t even much of a Witch, the only magic she employs regularly is her flying broom, and she’s not even sure that she enchanted it herself. The flying monkeys were developed through genetics that she learned in college and took much trial and error. We quickly learn that nearly everything in the movie was twisted to a Wizardcentric viewpoint, which built the WWotW into a horrible, all-powerful woman.
The whole book was very satisfying. The characters are fully and appeallingly developed, as is the land of Oz, with everything from culture to religion to ethnic tensions written about in great detail. I think everyone that likes good, especially epic, fiction would enjoy it.