You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Son of a Witch

Gregory Maguire's Son of a Witch is the sequel to his novel Wicked. This novel has a different tone than the
first, mostly because Liir, the son of Elphaba, has a very different personality than the witch. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, was very headstrong and knew precisely who she was and what she wanted. Liir is not even sure that Elphaba was his mother, and he has no family.

The story starts with the discovery of Liir's body, broken and comatose, and he is taken to the Cloister of Saint Glinda to see if he will recuperate. A new maunt (nun) called Candle, who is very quiet, is assigned to watch over him and to help his recovery she plays her instrument, a domingon. Meanwhile the story flashes back to immediately after the witch dies, when Liir travels with Dorothy and her companions to the Emerald City to visit the wizard. Once there Dorothy and the wizard disappear and Liir is left alone in the city. He is determined to find Nor, his childhood friend, and nearly catches up with her in the horrible prison called South Stairs. Instead he uses the witch's broom to fly out, and he decides to join the home guard.

He spends years in the home guard, never forgetting Nor but becoming entwined with the mindset and politics of Imperial Oz. On assignment in Quadling country he follows an order to commit an atrocity against the civilians, then leaves in shame. He makes his way to the witch's castle of Kiamo Ko, then decides to fulfill the mission of a dying Bird by flying to a bird convention. That is when he is attacked by dragons and left for dead.

Candle has a power that she wields through her domingon. Her power helps revive Liir, and he is pleasantly surprised to find himself in her company in a strange farmhouse not far from the cloister. They both agree that he must go to the bird convention to deliver the message and discuss the dragon attacks. At the bird convention he meets General Kynot, a Cliff Eagle who is another of the many colorful characters in the book, both human and Animal. Liir then returns to the Emerald City where he encounters a former comrade in the home guard name Trism who is now in charge of the dragons. Trism's horror at the viciousness mixes with Liir's horror at his own atrocity. The two of them decide to take a stand against the emperor, risking their lives.

Liir is always beset by the uncertainty of his heritage and his lack of direction in life. Though he believes he may be Elphaba's son (and she didn't treat him like her son), he knows nothing of her magic, and he's not sure he wants to follow her politics. This is symbolized by his reluctance to help Princess Nastoya, an Elephant serving as the Scrow princess. This is a story about growing up, driven by Liir's search to determine his identity and make a life for himself. He stumbles along the way, but knows he must redeem himself.

All the characters in the story are very interesting. The girl Candle starts as a simple stereotype but grows into a significant force in Liir's life. The maunts Sister Doctor and Sister Apothecaire have a strange relationship that changes as they search for the cause of the face scrapings in the area. Liir's own uncle Shell shows up in South Stairs then rises to great political heights. Every interaction between the characters could be a story in itself.

Politics is also a strong theme that emerges in the story. Liir comes to identify with the elements of Oz that resent the imperialism of the Emerald City. This is only intensified when he learns of the atrocities committed at the influence of Shell. Liir becomes not only responsible for his own life but also a sort of hero to others. A

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