Out of Oz
Written by: Gregory Maguire
Published By: William Morrow
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1995, Gregory Maguire turned the world of Oz upside down, creating a new series of novels about the Wicked Witch of the West and her descendants. The first novel of the series gave us new insight into the green witch known as Elphaba and sparked a renewed interest into the world of Oz first created by Frank L. Baum. On the heels of Magruire’s first novel, Wicked, came the much-beloved musical of the same name and two more novels to continue the story, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men. Loyal fans of The Wicked Years series of books by Gregory Maguire have been waiting quite some time for a new installment. We were rewarded with, what has been announced to be the last of the series, entitled Out of Oz.
Out of Oz follows the story of Rain, son of Liir and Candle, granddaughter of Elphaba, formerly known as the Wicked Witch of the West. As the book opens, there is much unrest in the land of Oz. The Emerald City and Munchkinland are at war and Commander Cherrystone has just claimed Mockbeggar Hall, home of Lady Glinda, for the Emerald City. For the past decade, Lady Glinda has been protecting a secret from the world, a secret born green, but now showing no verdant strain through the trickery of magic. She has been harboring Elphaba’s granddaughter as one of her servants at the urgings of Liir. She has also been hiding the much sought after book of magic known as the Grimmerie.
Realizing that Cherrystone has cottoned onto who Rain really is, Glinda makes a desperate attempt to save her, entrusting her care and that of the Grimmerie to the Keepers of the Time Clock. But not before she and Rain use the book to stop Cherrystone from invading Munchkinland with a horde of fire-breathing dragons. It is with this group, headed by a dwarf named Mr. Boss, that she meets the Cowardly Lion and her Aunt Nor. They eventually come upon her parents, Liir and Candle, hiding out and hoping to remain undiscovered by either side of the war.
Rain is uncomfortable after all these years with parents who she has never known longing to dote upon her. She remains distant and aloof, which is all for the best as the group realizes that they are once again in danger of being found and must split up. If either side discovered Liir or Rain’s relation to Elphaba, they will suspect their ability to read the Grimmerie as Elphaba could and use that ability to destroy the other side.
Rain goes into hiding at a school for girls where she meets a boy her age. Becoming fast friends, they have little time to pursue their relationship further once it is announced that the Grimmerie has been found. As Rain travels to find her family, she learns that her father has also been taken. Can Rain and her friends discover which side he has been taken by and rescue him before the Grimmerie can be used as a tool of destruction?
Out of Oz also harkens the return of several past characters, including Dorothy, who arrives in quite the interesting fashion, once again crash-landing in Munchkinland, this time in an elevator. Written in an effort to add some closure to the series, we also get to see what has happened to Chistery, the flying monkey, Nanna, and other characters met throughout The Wicked Years series. There is even a hint of an answer to the rumors of Elphaba and whether or not she is still alive.
I enjoyed reading the further adventures of Rain, Liir, Brrr (The Cowardly Lion), Nor, Candle, Lady Glinda and others I had grown to adore in this series. The novel was extremely suspenseful, what with the tangles Rain seemed to keep getting herself into. It also went a long way in solving numerous mysteries kept alive in the first three novels of the series, revealing quite a bit, including what happened to the last Ozma of Oz.
And yet, I felt little closure in reading the last chapters of the novel. I found too little was left open to chance, as if Maguire wasn’t at all certain that he wanted to give this all up and left things open to create another novel if he felt like returning to Oz. I’m all up for leaving certain things to the imagination, but there are some things you just want concrete answers to and Out of Oz never really supplies that. Without giving too much away, a lot of the ending is open to interpretation and the future of Oz is left uncertain.
I had a great time reading Out of Oz and watching Rain grow up along the way. I believe that other fans of The Wicked Years series will find this novel just as enjoyable as I did. However, there is no way that I am convinced that Out of Oz is the final chapter of this series. For some reason, although Maguire seems firm in his resolve that this is the final novel in the series, I will be waiting for yet another novel featuring one or more of the characters of The Wicked Years series in the future. Out of Oz may mark the end of The Wicked Years series, but it may not be the end of these characters. A new time in Oz is dawning and this may spark a new series of novels with a new series title.