Book Review: A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maquire

I recently finished the third novel in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire – A Lion Among Men.  The story begins with Yackle trying to die:

The time came for her to die, and she would not die; so perhaps she might waste away, they thought, and she did waste, but not away; and the time came for her to receive final absolution, so they set candles upon her clavicle, but this she would not allow.

Wicked was such a fantastic novel (the musical, although different, is also superb) that the sequel, Son of a Witch, could not live up to it.  Whereas Maquire tried too hard to force a sequel he had never intended to write, A Lion Among Men is written tepidly and forgets to add anything of value to the Wicked mythology, almost an apology for the atrocious Son of a Witch.

We follow Sir Brrr, the Cowardly Lion, as he remembers the story of his life to Yackle, an oracle.  Sir Brrr’s present day job is to find the Grimmerie or Liir (Elphaba’s son) against the backdrop of the Munchkinland/Emerald City war.  The Lion’s story is fruitless – he is proclaimed a coward, a hero, a friend, an enemy – all without doing ANYTHING.  However, his story is fast-paced and easy to read (unlike the first two novels).

I do recommend reading Maquire’s Oz novels, especially Wicked.  I would simply recommend Wicked, but if you fall in love with that book, you’ll read the next one despite how awful it is.  The first two novels aren’t light reading.  They are heavy-handed with political, social, and economic commentary.  Maquire is preachy, but his preaching is at least creative.  His world-building talent is phenomenal.  One of the hardest parts of these books is how deeply these worlds are created – at times you feel like you have to be a part of Oz to understand what is going on.  I swear that Maquire takes some sort of Ozian drug when he writes these things so that he is actually transported to his beloved Oz.

The fourth and final novel in the series is due to be released this fall.  I will, of course, read and review that one as well.  I hope we get a satisfying ending to a series that probably should never have existed.  So go read Wicked and let me know what you think!  And go see the musical!

Rating:  2/5

Published:  2008

Pages:  309

Next Review:  Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

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