Son of a Witch
Written by: Gregory Maguire
Published By: HarperCollins Publishers
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
After reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire – more like devouring the book I was so captivated by this new look at The Wizard of Oz – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, Son of a Witch. Wicked had been so imaginative and so intriguing, I had no doubt that this second book in the series would be just as interesting.
The novel centers around Liir, a young man who may or may not be the son of Elphaba, the woman known as the Wicked Witch of the West. We come upon Liir in the state of a coma, having suffered some trauma we have yet to learn. Liir is found on the road by travelers and taken to a mauntery – something akin to a convent in the world of Oz. The head maunt places a young woman named Candle in charge of Liir’s health. Candle is believed to be mute, but she has incredible talent when it comes to music. The head maunt believes that Candle may have the power to heal Liir through her music.
As Candle begins to play, Liir’s subconscious begins to work and we are treated to a view of his dreams, recollections of his past from the moment Elphaba is killed by Dorothy until the present. We learn of Liir’s journey to Emerald City, his subsequent dismissal by Dorothy and her friends and his search for former childhood friend, Nor. Along the way, we meet some characters from the first novel, including Scarecrow, Glinda, Chistery, Nanny and Yackle. We soon discover that after the disappearance of the Wizard and a quick interim reign by Glinda, Oz was ruled by an Emperor, one who believed he had the divine right to rule as spoken to him by the Unnamed God.
As Liir’s remembrances are revealed, we come to discover that although Liir is never quite certain of his parentage, and although he professes a somewhat loathing for Elphaba, he is destined to follow her path. There is a destiny that awaits Liir – a quest as important as life itself – if only he is willing to embrace it as his own.
In Wicked, Liir’s appearance is kept somewhat a mystery, although all of us assume that he is the son of Elphaba and Fiyero. In Son of a Witch, we get bits and pieces of the answers to the puzzle. Although there was never a doubt in my mind as to Liir’s parentage, it was nice to have some confirmation. I hadn’t much liked the character of Liir in the first novel, thinking him a sniveling little whiney imp who would jump at any ounce of love thrown his way, even if accepting such attention would be an act of betrayal toward Elphaba. In this novel, Liir is presented a tad differently. He begins somewhat wishy-washy, but the adventures he finds himself along the way bring a sense of maturity to the character. In other words, I began to enjoy reading about Liir and became invested in the eventual outcome of his adventures.
The politics behind the novel are not lost to me – in fact, they are very much appreciated. I had already enjoyed the idea of the Wizard’s hate of intelligent animals…or Animals…and his persecution of them. This book expands upon that idea and then some. I love the social commentary on the divine right of rule associated with the Emperor of Oz. Gregory Maguire leaves no ounce of hypocrisy untouched, exposing it in the military, religion and politics equally. Sometimes, such commentary can take away from a story and turn off the reader, but Maguire has a magical way of weaving commentaries into an already captivating storyline. One will never be bored with his stories.
For fans of Wicked, Son of a Witch is a must read. It is, in effect, the continuation of Elphaba’s struggles against hate and hypocrisy. Of course, Elphaba’s harsh witticisms are missing and that is something you will notice immediately as a difference between the books, but how can you resist knowing whether Liir is up to the task of carrying on Elphaba’s fight? How can you resist learning what fate holds in store for each of the original characters in Wicked? Elphaba Lives and her legacy carries on in Son of a Witch!