Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Out of Oz: The Final Volume in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire - review by Jon Bear

Out of Oz is the final book of a four part series surrounding many of the characters of Oz both familiar and newly imagined.  The previous books in the series are Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West; Son of a Witch; and A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years. I chose to review the final book and not the previous three because I just finished reading the final book in the series and had read the previous books years before Carlyn and I even began this blog. 

Out of Oz follows the life story of Rain Thropp the grand daughter of the Wicked Witch of the West and daughter of Lirr Thropp the Wicked Witch of the West's son.  Rain is hidden by Lirr and his wife Candel with a caretaker during a period of war and strife in Oz.  Shell Thropp the brother of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, is the Throne Minister and ruler of Oz following the departure of the Wizard of Oz from Oz. Shell as the self professed Divine ruler of Oz  rules from the Emerald City and becomes embroiled in a war against Mombey, a witch who has become the ruler of Munchkinland.  The war was initiated by Shell Thropp as a means for uniting all of Oz under his Divine leadership. 

There are two central themes that clearly become the focus of the story.  One is depicted metaphorically, in image and in name and that is the shell.  Used as such, in a varitey of ways the shell in the story comes  to symbolize many things.  It symbolizes protection as a shelter and symbolizes home.  Ever since Dorothy Gale spoke the words, "there's no place like home" those familiar with the original Wizard of Oz books or the popular movies will know the importance of home in the series.  The shell in the story is also a place to hide a place to be hidden and a place to be trapped or imprisoned.  It functions on many levels and most often functions in multiple manners at the same time.  The shell ties in closely with the other theme that is central to the story.

That's the theme of identity.  Virtually every major character in Out of Oz exists in a shell of some sort.  One major character is an exception to the shell existance.  As such identity is often defined by the shell.  Many of the characters struggle with their own identitys.  How the characters and ulitmately our own identity is defined by sexuality and gender and race and religion all under the shells in which we live is so very central to the struggles of the characters.  The book begins and ends with a grasshopper being let out of a cage (or a shell).  Rain's desire is to escape the confines of her shell or shells, and thus, the desire to get.... Out of Oz. 

The themes are so important to the story, and therefore should be kept in mind while reading it.  That said, the story itself has so much fantasy and adventure involved.  There are twists and turns that make it challenging to predict who is who and what will happen next.  Maguire is a comfortable read who very effectively creates imagery through words.  I loved the whole series, and I hope that anyone interested in reading Out of Oz, will have already read, or will now choose to read the series from the very beginning. 


  1. Ahww.. I started reading the first book a few years back but I stopped because I got busy with exams. I guess I'll give the series another chance. :) I hope to watch the musical Wicked someday and I heard it was based on this series.

  2. lle, I hope you enjoy the series as much as I did if you choose to read it. =) The Musical is wonderful too. I saw it probably about 7 or so years ago. While the musical is based off the book it does not follow the same story line completely. The intentions of any poor kid who chooses to write a book review for class off the musical will be sadly revealed. =P

  3. i think i know this book :D

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  4. the characters' name are filled with unfamiliar consonants it makes me and my average English confuse haha
    I think I need to read the book from the start to understand the whole story, but you did a great job in summarizing the whole concept of the book without spoiling it too much

  5. Thanks for responding Inge and Prisilia! =)

    Prisilia: Reading all the way through is always the best! Haha. Thanks for the compliment. I could have given a bit more about the story in the review, but I always worry about spoilers. I think next time I might try to incorporate a bit more relative to the story itself, as that is what most people read the books for. The themes of the story are usually a bit more relevant to students or discussion groups in book clubs.


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