"Out of Oz" is Maguire's fourth and final installment of the Wicked Years Series. Of course, I was thrilled to be sent a copy of this book to review on behalf of HarperCollins publishers, as I've been closely following these books over the past decade or so. Before reviewing the actual book, I'd like to give a brief synopsis of my thoughts on the first three books.
"Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West". This is by-and-large one of my most favorite books ever written. In my humble opinion, it's as near to perfection status as any novel can attain. This magnificent story sweeps a plethora of topics (philosophy, romance, infidelity, revenge, friendship, betrayal, racism (speciesism?), xenophobia, terrorism, love, courage, wisdom, etc, etc.) into an unforgettable saga that keeps the reader thinking long after the last page has been read. The discussion on the nature of evil could be pulled out the novel and published separately it is so thought-provoking. With that, I had high expectations for the following books.
"Son of a Witch". Unfortunately, not as captivating, witty or philosophical as "Wicked" but it was a great story, with a doozy of an ending that left you wanting more.
"A Lion Among Men". Frankly, I found this one a bit boring. Probably because it focused so much on Brr (the Lion) and didn't have Maguire's trademark multiple threads weaving their way throughout the novel. It was readable, just not as engrossing. While it gave a good backstory and filled in the gaps of Brr's activities after Elphaba dies in the first novel, a reader could take-it-or-leave-it without significant knowledge gaps coming into the final book.
And now, "Out of Oz". Great story! Not as amazing as "Wicked" but a realistic synthesis of events and their ultimate conclusion. The war between the Emerald City and Munchkinland finally comes to a head. Rain, Liir and Candle's daughter (Elphaba's granddaughter), makes her initial appearance as a young servant in Glinda's household before Glinda's P.O.W. status forces Rain to flee. After finding her parents, she is sent to a boarding school in order to get an education, but mostly to hide her from the eyes of both the Munchkinlanders and the new Emperor, Shell (Elphaba's brother and Rain's great-uncle) who has fashioned himself a deity. Dorothy makes her way back to Oz, only to face trial for the "murders" of sisters Nessarose and Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witches of the East and West. Events culminate with Rain and Dorothy confronting Shell, nearly destroying the Emerald City and rediscovering the long-lost Goddess of Oz, Ozma. Of course, this is a uber simplification of an over 550 page novel. Along the way, Liir, Candle, Brr, Nor, Granny, the Tick Tock Clock, General Cherrystone, Iskinaary and Toto all make their reappearances, too. Parts of the story proceeded at a much slower pace than I would have liked, but on the whole the story flowed effortlessly between storylines and moved quicker as the climax approached. The end wasn't really an end, but then, life rarely has cookie-cutter endings.