Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

I finished my first TBR Challenge 2008 book: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire. It’s been many years since I read his Wicked, of which Son of a Witch is a sequel of sorts. At first I felt a little lost, and I think that I may have missed some of the nuances of Emerald city and Munchkinland politics, and which I might have better understood if I had just finished Wicked. But soon enough, I found myself enjoying the novel on its own merits. Son of a Witch is an orphan’s coming-of-age story. It’s an absorbing tale that focuses on Liir, who may be the son of the late Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba Thropp. Maguire really creates an appealing and fully realized alternate universe, and because even the bare bones outline of the Wizard of Oz is so well-known, it works. The novel spends many of its pages going into detailed vignettes from Liir’s past. A large middle chunk of the novel deals with his military experience, and while it’s a fantasy novel, it’s hard not to draw parallels to real soldiers, be they in Iraq, Vietnam or Germany. Son of a Witch weaves together a large cast of characters-some as well-recognized as Dorothy and the Scarecrow, and other original creations like Elphaba’s nefarious brother, Shell. Having read most of Maguire’s other adult fiction, a shared trait across his novels that I really admire is his thoughtful characterization. Maguire really seems to respect his characters, and even if they’re not exactly human, he almost always conveys a weighty sense of their humanity. I found myself particularly engrossed towards the end of the novel, which I felt, succeeded in striving towards a big crescendo. This also made me think about book endings. I know there are books that I’ve felt have been shattered or redeemed by their endings. What do you think? How much does a book’s ending impact your feelings toward it? Share those titles! And if anyone’s read Son of a Witch, please weigh in!