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Book Review: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire (1/5)

3 Apr

I’m not sure I’ve given a One Star review since I started this blog. To me, this book failed on almost all levels and it had so many chances to improve that it skipped over. I didn’t go into this book thinking I’d hate it and it was honestly not until over half way through that I started to really dislike the story. I’ll get into the reasons, but it’s safe to say I’m not continuing this series.

Cover image via Goodreads

Son of a Witch (The Wicked Years #2) by Gregory Maguire

Summary from Goodreads:

Liir hid in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Left for dead in a gully, the teen is shattered in spirit and body. But silent novice Candle tends him at the Cloister of Saint Glinda, and wills him back to life with her music.

What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba’s son? He has her broom and her cape – but what of her powers? Can he find his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in the forbidding prison Southstairs? Can he fulfill the last wishes of a dying princess? In an Oz under new and dangerous management, can Liir keep his head down long enough to grow up?

I read Wicked back in high school, probably 11 or 12 years ago. I don’t remember how I felt about it at the time but I’m starting to wonder if I liked it or not. I felt like this book had no plot whatsoever. At times, I thought it would be Liir finding Nor, Liir’s relationship with Candle, or even the reign of Glinda. Honestly, I’m still a bit unsure what the plot was. The interview with Maguire at the end of the audiobook said it was about a boy realizing that he wanted to participate in society and learning that to do that, he couldn’t be a hermit. I didn’t get that at all! I think the book could have redeemed itself if Liir had found Nor. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but it would have been better. I also disliked the time jumps in the book. It starts in present time and then jumps back an unspecified time, probably about 10 years, and tells the story up until present and then starts again. I think it could have been chronological and been easier to follow. The characters feel flat for me as well. Even Liir didn’t seem to have much of a personality though it started to come out in the last 50 pages. I think this book was written to write a sequel and those books frustrate me.

The book was very political and the politics made sense to me. I could see how a land of desert people would be branded as dumb and persecuted. I could see how a mineral-rich area would try to become separate from the main power. I can see all of these things happening, but I didn’t care. They didn’t affect the main characters in a meaningful way. Everything that happened to Liir didn’t seem to last more than 50 pages before he moved on to something completely separate and unrelated to what he had been doing. It made it really hard to care about what was happening to him and I started to lose interest quickly.

Candle was my favorite character only because most of the others were so unlikable. Maybe the other maunts at St. Glinda’s could be my favorites, but Candle was the most central to the plot. She was very independent, like the other maunts, and was resourceful. I liked that she had a small backstory, too. I wish I knew what happened to her in the end but I’m not curious enough to read the next book.

Liir was wandering without direction for years and while that’s relatable for someone in the late 20s, it’s not what I want to read in a book. I understand the author’s intention, but he didn’t make it interesting enough for me. Relatable characters were not his goal and I disagree with how he wrote the story.

Gregory Maguire
Author image via Goodreads

I liked the journey into Southstairs. Shell was a good character and it seemed obvious to me that he was struggling with depression. He was very aimless and seemed to have no morals to stand on. It seems like there’s a whole book in his 180 change to become a religious figurehead missing in the book, but getting a chance to meet Shell, see the seedy underworld of Oz, and hear how Liir made a quick exit was my favorite part of the book.

I hated every bit of Liir’s time in Qhoyre. I found it boring, a waste of time, and of no great impact on the book. It only explained a pity that Liir had for Candle, which I think could have been accomplished many other ways. It made me dislike Liir and I didn’t think it helped him grow as a character at all.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by the author, Gregory Maguire. I was a bit nervous about this at first but he ended up being a great narrator. He had a good range of voices and with all the strange words in the book, I didn’t have to wonder if they were being pronounced ‘right.’ If that’s how the author said them, it’s how I should say them, too.

It’s hard for me to pull a theme from this book. I heard what Maguire said I should get out of this book, a man realizing he has to join the world, but I didn’t get that from the book. I felt the book lacked a consistent theme and that was a part of what I didn’t like about it.

Writer’s Takeaway: This may be a strong case of ‘middle book syndrome.’ What bothers me about that is that from the interview with Maguire at the end of the book, he didn’t essentially intend to write another book. I felt this left too many loose ends and too many holes in the plot. I see the advantage of having a theme and a plot direction. When I tried ‘pantsing’ (writing without a plot in mind) a book, I felt like it ended up similar to this book. However, I edited it to pieces and rebuilt a novel. I didn’t publish it.

Startlingly low, I give this book One out of Five Stars for a variety of reasons.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Review: Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire | The Independent Review
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Review: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire | RebelliousG