Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire

The title gives away a general description of the tale revolving around Lyman Frank Baum's classic characters from The Wizard of Oz. Elphaba's (L. F. B) story begins long before a certain house crashed onto Oz and centers around her struggle to comprehend herself, her role in a quixotic universe, and what--if any--meaning evil has. Maguire's prose is (forgive me) spellbinding, although not without fault. So much of the characters' dialogue is indistinguishable regardless of rank or personality and the heart of the novel lies in the first two parts, replaying the early years of the Witch and her time in university. After that point the tale sags; characters so deftly rendered are reduced to cameos and Maguire's philosophical obsession becomes focal at the expense of story (and his rendition of evil is too mundane). I question the book's success without the usurpation of Baum's tale and found myself doubting the very need to use Oz as a platform. With genre fiction so degraded, piggybacking is merely self-preservation; however, does this work actually hinder the respectability of more originally set fantasy writing? Interestingly, I found myself longing for events to parallel the Disney-fied musical even as a devoured the story I was holding. Maguire is certainly a stupendous crafter if he has self-exiled this and his other novels to the revisionist realm.