Son of a Witch (The Wicked Years, #2)

By Gregory Maguire

58,853 ratings - 3.48* vote

Liir hid in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Left for dead in a gully, the teen is shattered in spirit and body. But silent novice Candle tends him at the Cloister of Saint Glinda, and wills him back to life with her music. What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba's son? He has her broom and her cape - but what of her power Liir hid in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Left for dead in a gully, the teen is

... more

Book details

Paperback, 352 pages
September 26th 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks

(first published September 27th 2005)

Original Title
Son of a Witch
0060747226 (ISBN13: 9780060747220)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Danii Goldstein

I've read a lot of reviews for this book and most people seemed to hate it. You will notice, however, that I gave this book five stars.

To those who hated it, I say this: I see what your problems are.

The story is badly paced (most of the 'action' happens in the last third), the reader spends most of the time being confused as to what's going on (while it is a third person narrative, it is limited third person), some of the characters seemed half-drawn, the narrative is very disconnected (occasionally, emotionless), it completely lacked an ending (...I won't spoil things, but it's left very open ended), and most importantly, that it is nothing like [Wicked].

But here's the thing: a book is more than the sum of it's parts. And a sequel can be more than just the continuation of its predecessor's story.

It's something I find rather amusing, considering Liir's struggle throughout the entirety of the book: to find his own voice as he is asked over and over again both by his own desires and by the needs of others to take Elphaba's place. This is his story, and so yes, it is a very different book than [Wicked] and it would ring false if it wasn't. This was something I loved about the book, as the dense, twisted, complex tone of [Wicked] helped to characterize Elphaba for me; the lost, sparser, somewhat unconnected, occasionally clumsy writing very much characterized Liir for me. How anyone could think this anything but deliberate after having read [Wicked] or any of Maguire's other books is something I wonder about; the unreliable (or unknowing) narrator is something I enjoy a great deal and working my way through the doubletalk and reading between the lines of what Liir seemingly took straight almost made it seem like there were two worlds in this book: what Liir saw and what was really going on, a theme that should be well familiar to anyone reading one of Maguire's retreads.

I might also mention that this is the Oz that Baum's books never really covered. While Maguire's handling of Dorothy is somewhat fuddled (almost like Liir's), Liir's story is his own making. There is no framework and unlike with Elphaba, no eventual end. We don't know what's to come for him since he is an original creation and this freedom (sometimes terrifying) is another feature of this book that wasn't a part of the prequel. And another part I liked.

The pacing, I admit, is a fault of the book. I could have done less with the maunts and had more of Liir's story given to us but all books have their faults. The lack of an ending seems to be part of his plans for a continuation.

But if you read this book to slip into someone's world, someone's shoes, to slide behind their eyes and feel and see and know this world from someone uniquely conditioned to see things from something almost like a fourty five degree angle to the rest of his own world... then I think you will enjoy it. If you read this book to travel Oz with Liir, I think you'll enjoy the book. If you read this book to get more of Maguire's unique vision of Oz, you'll enjoy this book. If you've ever felt as if you don't know what you're doing with your life, if you don't think you'll ever live up to expectations, if you've ever felt as if you're just a bit off from everyone else... then yeah. I think you'll like this book.

Enjoy it for the experience. Where [Wicked]'s denseness demanded examination, [Son of a Witch] lets you wander about in Oz. The depth is there, but the book skims across the surface.

"Hidden depths," Liir once said.

"Hidden shallows," another character supplied afterwards. And that's all you will get if you don't care to consider it more closely.

So yes, a lot of people hated it. But I, personally, adored it down to my bones and will recommend it to anyone you care to name. Perhaps I could have written this more eloquently or in a more understandable format, but such is life.


This book was so satisfying. Liir, son of Elphaba, comes into his own and after 266 pages, he begins to do incredible things to help other people, lead, unite, take the helm of his mother’s legacy. And it’s so realistic because he does it while still in a state of confusion and self-doubt, obstacles he never really overcomes (neither did Elphaba really). I love how everyone says to him “if only Elphaba was here to see this…” The Bird Congress aka Witch Nation (charged by Liir to be the eyes of Oz and share info with other species and humans to foil future despots), rides in the shape of a witch on a broom, and Liir rides in the position as the Eye of the Witch.

I loved it when he asked Nanny if she thought Elphaba will have a history and she said “She does already, ninnykins! I just saw her flying up the valley. Her cape went out behind her, a thousand bits in flight (the thousands of birds). Nearly touched the peaks to the left and the right. If that’s not a history, what is?” So, Liir GIVES her a history. I also like how sarcastic he becomes in the middle of the book, like his mother, after life kicks him around a lot, he lies in a coma, etc. At one point he says, “What condition? I’ve been in this condition my whole life. It’s the only condition I know. Bitter love, loneliness, contempt for corruption, blind hope. It’s where I live.” I also love how he becomes a man of wry humor and charm, accepting his fate of never knowing the answers. He tells Elphaba’s monkey “She always liked you better” and smiles at him. The monkey says “Considering who she was, is that a compliment or an insult?”

He poisons all the Emperor’s dragons, which in turn saves lives, achieves revenge on Cherrystone, frees the skies for the birds, unites two warring tribes who thought each other was doing the dragon-stuff. He thinks of a way to draw out the voices of the dead, which allows the She-Elephant to die properly. He still does not know if he is Elphaba’s son until the last sentence when he holds up his newborn daughter in the rain to clean her (after finding her dead, wrapped in Elphaba’s cloak, and he revives her). Her skin is green.

NOTE: How Maguire is successful in using “perception” of different witnesses and participants to alter our “perception” of the well-known Oz Story is through characters who must act without “knowing all the answers” or “having enough information.” We all face that in life. There are those who do not act because of this lack of enough info, are held back, they are cautious, and they never do anything meaningful. And then there are those who do take risks and act (you will never have all the answers or enough info) and thus make/ change history. In the traditional Oz Story, all the risks Elphaba take are mis-perceived. So, it’s fascinating how he again uses this same tool for the story of Liir, and everything he does could be perceived as bad…but it’s not. Thus, the immense satisfaction. And then you get pieces of additional info that determine he was on the right track, confirm his decisions and actions. No misperception, redirection, just the story of a regular Joe-schmoe who does amazing things. “If only Elphaba was here to see this…” I’m talking about more than a mother’s pride and personal vindication. I’m talking about a righting of the wrongs in the world that her son engineers.

And again, I wonder if the son will love the granddaughter properly, being her only caretaker. Obviously yes, because of the way he cared for her immediately, again righting wrongs his mother committed against him. What kind of person will the granddaughter be, what legacy will she leave on the world? How will she carry the burden of Elphaba, the burden of being green. Will Liir ever find Nor?

Green: fresh as spring, dewy, not rotten. The first color I learned about in literary symbolism. The green light of Daisy’s house that Jay Gatsby stares at across the water all the time. It meant HOPE, renewal, fresh new growth, a new beginning.

Jason Koivu

I love the Wicked series books for the fact that apparently they are "NOTHING LIKE THE PLAY!" to the point that it angers fans of the stage version. If you have time, read some of the one-star reviews for the first book ( It's hilarious how mad these people get. It's like they've been betrayed, tricked into reading this divergence from their beloved baby. Since the play is based on the book, shouldn't they be upset at the play for switching things up and muddling their grey matter?

If they continued on reading the series (which there's no way in hell they would) no doubt this continuation of Maguire's alternative Oz history would further incense them. It departs even farther from Baum's original work...unless Baum discusses homosexuality in one of his books which I haven't read yet. The tone is more realistic and contemplative. Everything's taken more seriously than your great gran's fancy-free Oz.

I'm also a fan of these books for the writing. Gregory Maguire can string words together pretty well! He's a solid tale-teller too, although pacing can be his achilles heel. Those contemplations bog things down a bit now and then.

This is definitely not for everyone (certainly not for a certain few!), but if you liked adventuring in the Land of Oz as a kid and long for more now that you're all growed up (and are fully equipped with an open mind), this just might be the escape you were looking for.


I made a mistake reading this book. I should have known from the ending of Wicked that it wouldn't get much better. But I held out hope. My hope was that "well, maybe the ending I didn't get in Wicked, I'll get here, and maybe that was the plan all along, to fully revise things in a sequel, as that would be more the author's OWN and he'd be less pigeon-holed."

Alas, that wasn't the case.

Again, 98% of this book is a great read. But the two main problems I had with the first book are the problems I have with this book.

1- The pace is way too slow. I like the author's writing. I could read volume after volume of the middle bits of his stories. So if this book were DOUBLE the size, I'd be ok with it. It's just again when I got to the end, I realized that not much had happened. I'll give credit where credit is due though, Liir accomplished about 10 times as much as Elphaba ever did. So this was a step in the right direction. It's just over the course of the two books, I must say, all that really happened was about 5 trips between Kiamo Ko and the Emerald City. A lot of walking. Or flying on a broomstick. The old saying about it's not the reward of the quest, but the quest itself, shines through in both of these books. The "getting there" is a great read. But the endings are so ... well, that's point 2 so let's get to point 2 now.

2- The ending left me flat. Very flat. I'll again give credit where credit is due ... this ending was way better than the ending to Wicked. It was a big step forward. Elphaba really doesn't seem like she's ALLOWED by the writer to accomplish anything. Liir accomplishes a few things of importance. But that's it. That's all. So unless there's a third book on the way, I'm really dissatisfied with the state the story is left in at the very end. Especially with the character of Nor. It seemed like everything I read about her was in fact not needed. Like she could be cut completely out of this book and it wouldn't matter. The same could ALMOST be said of Shell. And Trism. And Candle after they got to Apple Farm Press.

If there's a third book, well, I like his writing enough that I'll again fall victim to interest and read it. But until this story gets some better or more complete resolution, I can't in good faith reccommend this to anyone.


As much as I liked Wicked, I had an inkling I was going to like Son of a Witch even better, especially given the beginning, with the spate of senseless "scrapings" and the discovery of the unconscious boy, who turns out to be Liir, the book's protagonist and the potential son of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The beginning was indeed good. Engaging. I especially enjoyed the brief time Liir spent with the Yellow Brick Road friends from The Wizard of Oz. I'm a huge WoO nut, but I didn't have any problem whatsoever with the irreverent, perhaps more realistic way the classic characters were handled.

When the silent maunt known as Candle is assigned to take care of Liir, that stuff was pretty good too -- the unconscious Liir's flashbacks were interesting and pulled the plot along nicely. I was totally into it.

Around three-quarters of the way into the book, though I started to get annoyed. It didn't look like Liir was going to accomplish anything -- he wasn't going to achieve a gratifying ending to any of his quests and charges, he wasn't going to settle into a romantic relationship, he wasn't going to figure himself out. The book makes Liir out to be a sort of malcontent, but I don't know. He's pretty mild. The only thing that really comes across is the character's confusion as to who he is and what he stands for. And I didn't feel he ever came to any conclusions about that. It was frustrating to get three-quarters into the book and still feel that the protagonist had no sense of purpose.

Perhaps his rudderlessness is the point. I could see how that might be the case. But I don't feel that it made for satisfying reading. I'll know I'll reread Wicked again and again, but I don't think Son of a Witch was worth finishing the first time through.


"Wicked" kind of annoyed me from time to time ... inspite of the fact that I loved reading Elphaba's story. If that book fell a little short ... then this book (the sequel) completely misses the mark. Maguire did okay when he was writing on the basis of someone else's work ... but here on his own he flounders. Whatever it was that did not sit well with me from "Wicked" is found tenfold in the pages of "Son of a Witch." At first I thought that it was just Maguire's take on bits of Baum's original story that did not sit well with me ... then I thought maybe it was just his style. Now I think it's just a poorly written book from all angles. I kept reading and hoping that it would get better, that the real story would soon begin, but it didn't and it didn't and it didn't and finally I turned the last page ... and it was over. There have been very few times I felt like reading a book was a waste ... this was one of them.


I remember reading this book when I was 11 and being highly disturbed by it. It's one of the books I remember quite vividly even now and it kinda stuck with me my whole life, but in a very bad way. I'm still debating whether I should try reading the whole series now that I'm mature enough for it (and have obviously read my fair share of creepy and disgusting books). The fact that this is a second book in a series where I had not even known the first book existed in the time reading it might also be a factor why I had disliked it so much. I remember being so confused to what was going on.

Shelly Rae Rich

I'm not sure why this has an average of 3.32. It's a great entertaining and thought-provoking book. Maybe I'm prejudiced toward GM, but I loved it, and think it came to its inevitable conclusion. Can't wait for the next (which goes into Mother Yackle if anyone's following the series - he read a bit at last year's Grub Street conference).

I just looked at some of the other reviews and disagree on so many levels. The kinship of Elphaba and Liir is demonstrated quite well through his behavior and to miss that, I think, is missing a large part of the theme [ie, what is wickedness?]

Anyhow, there are four parts. My interview with Maguire is on by blog here, if anyone cares to check it out.


I am angry at Gregory Maguire. (This will excuse the poor grammar and run-on sentences that may follow.) Very angry. Maguire writes books that are impossible to read; as such, I opted to listen to Son of a Witch on tape after failing to get past the 1st few chapters on more than one occasion. As it turns out, Maguire's books are equally difficult to listen to, especially when the audio reader is the author himself.

Although I am now questioning my previous opinion, I had it in my mind that Wicked was a good book. I read it a decade ago during my open-minded college years. As I began Son of a Witch I was excited to learn more about the (presumed) offspring of Elphaba - a character previously so misunderstood and yet so cleverly discovered in Wicked. What new insight could Maguire deliver into the Wonderful World of Oz?

None! He provides none! He provides a poorly conceived rambling tale told by an unreliable narrator about an unlikeable wholly self-involved kretin of a main character whose entire drive toward action throughout the story (and that which inspired the story itself as per Maguire's audio interview at the end of the book) is to find his (presumed) half-sister Nor! Who he never finds! And who he decides occasionally he doesn't care to find, oh wait yes he does, or no, oh yes! This book arguably was the sole inspiration behind the phrase, "WTF".

Perhaps some of my frustration for this piece of literature stems from how it makes me feel like an idiot. Nevermind my recurrent self analysis of why I was trying to finish it, but so many times I had no idea what was going on. Maguire was literaturely reaching around my back to tap me on my opposite shoulder so I could fall victim to being the clueless one. (I looked everytime!) Had I not been listening to his oddly voiced characters in his own audio narrative, I'd wonder whether he was cackling with mirth that he'd found another gullible reader with whom to play. He makes wild inferences forcing you to create connections that just aren't there. He about-faces at oblique angles just as you're starting to feel comfortable with the flow of things. He lies to you repeatedly without remorse. He is just bizarre. If possible I would send Liir a bouquet of daisies upon which he could pluck as he debated - I love Candle! I love her not! I love Candle! Golly, I just don't know! - I hate you Liir! I need no flowers to help me decide.

I was left speechless when I realized I was reading Giovanni's Room: the Twist of Oz. It was like a tornado had dropped a house of homoeroticism on my head! "I'm not going to sleep to let you stab me in the back!" "The milk that only boys make!" Clearly, not in Kansas anymore.

I am angry at Gregory Maguire. He tricked us with an ingenious concept - revising classic tales from the villains point of view! I even wrote a paper about it in college. What a humanitarian genius! (Maguire, not me.) And yet his development of this concept in Son of a Witch leaves me simmering with contempt at his inhumane fumblings.

Gregory, I wish you played the muse and not the creator. The premises of your stories are so familiar that I cannot help but plod my way through to see if you can delight me with further insight into classic tales. However, you manage to use the third person narrative as a weapon. Ultimately, you only describe Liir's viewpoint and yet you do not give me any insight in the madness behind the man. I learn what Liir is thinking but never why. Some might argue that this is because Liir himself does not know - but then why lock me into complete ignorance while following characters that are even more ignorant. What's the point?

Maguire's greatest talent is using culinary metaphors and terminology to describe the landscape - which he does ad nauseum. In a warm roasted chestnut shell, other than incite my ire to snap and crackle like winter's first batch of fire-cooked popcorn, this book made me hungry for things that haven't been deemed edible since the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, I don't plan on reordering this meal and I certainly will not try the dessert.


Jeez, and I thought Wicked was bad. Wicked mostly stole freely from Baum's universe in a way that lacked both respect and imagination, and still managed to be little more than a trite exercise in politically correct stupidity. Give this man the chance to write a plot of his own, and the results are twice as insufferably vain and, well, lacking in actual content. Despite Maguire's extremely poor writing style, Wicked could at least prop itself up on the familiarity of Baum's characters, but now that we're entirely in original territory it falls flat on its face and stays there. This book is boring , and I say that as a trained librarian. Despite being written by the author of the original book, it reads like bad Wicked fanfic, as mendaciously unimaginative as it is limited in its execution. I think Maguire may be the only modern author I've read so lacking in talent that he's able to somehow pull this off.

This book was so bad I couldn't finish it, which is not something I say very often. I'm a bibliophile. My house has hundreds of books. However, after reading this one, I wouldn't rest until I'd convinced my wife to get rid of every Maguire book we owned. Not recommended except for total masochists or people who, well, prefer fanfic to actual books and aren't bothered by the sleaziness of this whole franchise where acknowledging the contributions of the original author is concerned.