Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Son of a Witch

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
HarperCollins, 2005
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Wicked Years Series, #2
ISBN-13: 9780060747220

A decade after the Witch has melted away, the young man Liir is discovered bruised, comatose, and left for dead in a gully. Shattered in spirit as well as in form, he is tended by the mysterious Candle, a foundling in her own right, until failed campaigns of his childhood bear late, unexpected fruit. Liir is only one part of the world that Elphaba left behind. As a boy hardly in his teens, he is asked to help the needy in ways in which he may be unskilled. Is he Elphaba's son? Has he power of his own? Can he liberate Princess Nastoya into a dignified death? Can he locate his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in shackles in the Wizard's protection? Can he survive in an Oz little improved since the death of the Wicked Witch of the West? Can he learn to fly? In Son of a Witch, Gregory Maguire suggests that the magic we locate in distant, improbable places like Oz is no greater than the magic inherent in any hard life lived fully, son of a witch or no.

My Thoughts:

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire continues the story found in his novel Wicked. Son of a Witch follows Liir after Elphaba's death. Liir, found broken and comatose, is taken to the Mauntry where the medical sisters minister to him and a young maunt, Candle, is assigned to care for him. Much of Son of a Witch is the story of Liir searching for meaning in his life, which is told in flashbacks, while his body is recovering.

Apparently Gregory Maguire purposefully wrote Son of a Witch in a rambling, unfocused, wandering style to reflect Liir's search for a purpose to his life. While the idea of this seems clever, and I do not question for a second that Maguire is a very clever writer, I'm not sure it was completely successful for me. I did enjoy the beginning of the novel and Maguire's word play, but about half way through I found myself wanting something more to happen. The pace was simply too slow and meandering.

I read Wicked years ago and although I wasn't a huge fan of it, I decided it might be fun to continue the story. In the end I'm just conflicted. I liked Son of a Witch better at the beginning and then it just went downhill. There were also several stories that were left unfinished and are likely wrapped up in the third book, A Lion Among Men, but I'm unsure if I will bother to read it.
- certainly for fans of Wicked.


So the talk of random brutality wasn't just talk. At noontime they discovered the bodies of three young women, out on some mission of conversion that appeared to have gone awry. The novice maunts had been strangled by their ropes of holy beads, and their faces removed.
Her nerve being shaken at last, Oatsie Manglehand now caved in to the demands of her paying customers. She told the team drivers they'd pause only long enough to dig some shallow graves while the horses slaked their thirst. Then the caravan would press on across the scrubby flats known, for the failed farmsteads abandoned here and there, as the Disappointments. opening

"We're not going to dig another grave." That from her noisiest client, a wealthy trader from the northern Vinkus. "Not his, Oatsie Manglehand, and not yours, either. We're not doing it. We leave him unburied and alone, or we leave him unburied with your corpse for company."
"We don't need to do either," said Oatsie. She sighed. "Poor, poor soul, whoever he is. He needs no grave. He isn't dead yet." pg. 5

Oatsie reminded them that they didn't have a vote. She'd never represented that her clients would travel unencumbered by waifs and strays. pg. 6

"If my memory hasn't begun to fail me," the Superior Maunt continued, "you should know him as well. You took him from us some years ago. Fifteen was it, twenty? At my age I don't apprehend the passage of time as I ought."
"He'd have been a child twenty years ago, an infant," said Oatsie. "I never took and infant from a mauntery."
"Perhaps not an infant. But you took him just the same. He traveled with a disagreeable novice who served for several years in the hospice. You were conveying them to the castle stronghold of the Arjikis. Kiamo Ko."
"He was with Elphaba?" pg. 8

"Before resting for the night, I recalled his name. The boy was named Liir. He left the mauntery with Sister Saint Aelphaba - well, Elphaba, I suppose; she never professed her vows." pg. 16

"Did you say there's a boy in the house?" asked Mother Yackle. She let her shawl slip back and raised her bleary, milk-clotted eyes toward the Superior Maunt. "Did he bring back the broom?' pg. 26

He was living in the castle called Kiamo Ko at the time, but he wasn't present at the death of the Witch. pg. 30

"Oh, Toto!" shrieked Dorothy suddenly. "Where's Toto?"
"He's wandered off to do his business," said the Lion. "Just between you and me, it's about time he learned to be private about it. I know you dote on him, but there is a limit."
"He'll be lost," she cried. "He couldn't find his way out of a cracker barrel. He's not very bright. you know."
After a respectful pause, the Tin Woodman observed, "I think we've all noticed that."
"I hate to be obvious," added the Scarecrow, "but you'd have saved yourself a heap of trouble if you weren't too cheap to invest in a leash, Dorothy." pg. 36

"Cowardice is a dubious attribute. Yet I possess it in spades, so I hope on this venture to learn how to use it to my advantage if I must. All gifts come from the Unnamed God, including cowardice, and self-repugnance." pg. 69

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