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Son of a Witch    by Gregory Maguire order for
Son of a Witch
by Gregory Maguire
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

With the popularity of Wicked, one might have predicted that Gregory Maguire would follow up his grand tale of Elfaba, Wicked Witch of the West with another tryst into the land of Oz. That he would write a piece so engaging, self-contained, and unique, surprised a great deal of his fans. While Wicked presented the story of the Witch as a tragedy and a major case of bad public relations on the part of Elfaba, Son of a Witch looks at the life of Lir, the youth who followed Elfaba for years before her death.

Though Wicked in many ways paralleled Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Maguire had significantly more freedom to follow the adventures of Lir in his travels about Oz. He tries to locate Nor, a childhood friend and possible half-sister, as well as finding himself and facing his past. Is he really Elfaba's son or just some child she was given after her residency at a convent? Familiar faces appear, including Glinda, Nanny, and yes, even Dorothy, but is Lir capable of living as grand a life as his caretaker, Elfaba, or will he just fade away left to his own devices?

An interesting aspect of Son of a Witch is its self-containment. Readers unfamiliar with Wicked can still follow this tale with no problems. As Lir wasn't a pivotal character in the first book, this plot doesn't demand an understanding of it. The ever-changing politics of Oz still dominate the actions of the protagonist, but they have changed so distinctly that readers can easily catch up with the current state of the world.

Gregory Maguire narrates this fifteen hour tale himself, a great contrast to the voice of John McDonough who narrated Wicked. McDonough's voice had a raspy and experienced tone to it while Maguire provides a gentle and light voice in his reading. His vocal characterizations overall are decent and quite impressive for an author who has only professionally read one other book. As an added bonus, Harper Audio includes an interview with Maguire at the end of the production. As is so often the case, the interview provides gems of trivia and background about Maguire's reasons and thoughts about his piece.

Maguire's proven himself a master of the altered fairy tale but he goes a step further with Son of a Witch and paints a new Oz - so that, even were it not called Oz and connected to the classic story, it would be just as engaging and entertaining.

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