A Lion Among Men
Written by: Gregory Maguire
Published By: William Morrow
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
We have all heard the tales of the land of Oz written by Frank Baum and we’ve all seen the movie that tells of Kansas native Dorothy Gale’s adventures of Oz that is based on Baum’s book. But the true story of the inhabitants of Oz had yet to be told. That is, until Gregory Maguire gave us Wicked, the true story of Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West. We were enchanted by the tale and wanted more. Happily, he obliged, reminding us that the story wasn’t over simply because the witch had been melted. There were other tales to tell. That is why he gave us Son of a Witch, the tale of the adventures of Elphaba’s son Liir. Bet you didn’t know that the Wicked Witch had a son. Having read both novels I couldn’t wait to delve into the third in the series, A Lion Among Men.
This third volume in the Wicked Years series takes place just after Liir’s adventures, with the Cowardly Lion (AKA: Brrr) as the main character. It would seem that ever since his youth, the Cowardly Lion has had a knack for getting himself into trouble. You would remember him as the young cub whose rights Elphaba takes up to defend in the lab at Shiz in Wicked. Now, accused of false counts of treason among other things, Brrr has been forced to work with intelligence in exchange for serving time in prison. His orders are very clear: discover what Liir has been up to lately, but most importantly, discover the location of the magical book known as the Grimmerie.
This novel marks the return of Yackle and the Clock of the Time Dragon, two characters who seem to be tied to the fate of Elphaba from the very beginning. As the Lion investigates Yackle’s connection to the Grimmerie, he finds himself delving into his own past, revealing quite a bit about himself as he uncovers tidbits about Yackle. Meanwhile, the Clock of the Time Dragon is making its way toward the Emerald City and the troop in charge of the monstrous fortune teller has had a mysterious addition to its ranks - a young lady originally hailing from the Vinkus who has spent time in the Emerald City’s underground prison.
A great many secrets are revealed in this novel bringing many things to light, such as Yackle’s connection to Elphaba, Brrr’s history, the Time Dragon’s connection to Elphaba and the Grimmerie, the location of characters long thought lost, the betrayal of Elphaba that cost Fiyero his life, and lastly, the location of the Grimmerie itself.
A tremendously fast and terrifically enjoyable read, A Lion Among Men was the perfect follow up novel to Son of a Witch. It is downright hysterical to read the adventures of the Lion and to understand his reasoning powers. And I must say it is rather funny to see him cursing out Yackle in several parts of the novel. The Wizard of Oz is such a goody-two-shoes tale that it is unsettling and yet extremely funny to read of these characters as if they were members of today’s society.
As I understand it, Maguire is set to write a fourth novel in the series focusing on Glinda. Of course, his fans, myself included, would love to see him unravel the tales of the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman, but we will be more than happy to purchase any novel in the Wicked Years series that he sees fit to honor us with. Gregory Maguire has a rather warped sense of humor that fits in well when totally dismantling and rebuilding the world of Oz that was Frank Baum’s vision. And I must say that I like this much more believable version of Oz a great deal more than the versions I read about as a child. All hail Gregory Maguire for his wit and his vision and may he continue to set fairytales on their ear in his own very special way!