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A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years    by Gregory Maguire order for
Lion Among Men
by Gregory Maguire
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Gregory Maguire's A Lion Among Men follows Wicked (a retelling of the story of Elphaba, the so-called Wicked Witch of the West) and Son of a Witch (that delves into the life of Liir, who followed her for years) as the third episode in the Wicked Years. It's an intricate fantasy, heavy in irony and set in a world that seems to be a more politically complex (and so perhaps more realistic) version of Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

A Lion Among Men is mainly the story of Brrr, long villified as the Cowardly Lion. With civil war imminent, a reluctant Brrr (along with an odd white cat that attaches itself to him en route) is on a mission from the autocratic Emperor of Oz to the Cloister of Saint Glinda, in search of Elphaba Thropp's Grimmerie. At this mauntery, he seeks information from an oracle named Yackle - who's persisted near death for a remarkably long time. Yackle insists on tit for tat, Brrr's story for her own, both told in flashbacks. Interspersed with these are brief mentions of the mysterious and damaged Ilianora, as she travels with dwarves and the Clock of the Time Dragon.

Not having read either Wicked or Son of a Witch, I found it hard to get into A Lion Among Men but persistence paid off in getting to the meat of this complex literary fantasy. As an Emerald City army invades Munchkinland, Brrr's disclosures to Yackle eventually reveal the Lion's origins (and early abuse) in a laboratory, show his entry 'into the world of human affairs', portray his continuing bad fortune and humiliations when dealing with humankind,and explain how he became known as Cowardly. They also reveal his brief liaison with Ivory Tigress Muhlama, and his dealings with Dorothy. As this episode concludes, the Lion is faced with a choice and decides 'to vex history.'

Fans of Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years series will enjoy its continuation in A Lion Among Men. Those who haven't read the earlier books yet, but enjoy this kind of fantasy, should definitely read the episodes in order, starting with Wicked.

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