A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, #3)

By Gregory Maguire

26,968 ratings - 3.32* vote

In this much-anticipated third volume of the Wicked Years, we return to Oz, seen now through the eyes of the Cowardly Lion - the once tiny cub defended by Elphaba in Wicked. While civil war looms, a tetchy oracle named Yackle prepares for death. Before her final hour, an enigmatic figure known as Brrr - the Cowardly Lion - arrives searching for information about Elphaba Th In this much-anticipated third volume of the Wicked Years, we return to Oz, seen now through the eyes of the Cowardly

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Book details

Hardcover, 312 pages
October 14th 2008 by William Morrow
Original Title
A Lion Among Men
0060548924 (ISBN13: 9780060548926)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


To be honest... I'm getting frustrated with Maguire. His first book in the series (Wicked) has received national (if not global) acclaim, as it rightly should. I was originally entranced by Maguire's ability to reinvent Oz while still keeping the classical whimsical elements alive, in fact fleshing them out by putting them in a realistic and harsh reality of social commentary. However, with the introduction of Son of a Witch, about which he has said he never planned for, Maguire has gone on to tell some other story. This latest installment does give some halfway disappointing closure on the characters of Yackal and the dwarf that still for some reason doesn't make all kinds of sense; however, the story of the lion is long and depressing, filled with themes all too similar to the last book - of course instead of exploring failure because of fate, we explore failure because of cowardice. In fact that seems to be the core theme of the entire series - exploring failure. Maguire seems to have finally mastered his tempo problems of the first two books: the action, dialogue, and introspection all blend seemlessly to make this an easy, engaging read. However the only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to get through the endless history, on to what would happen next. This book revisits too much of the old books to really be called new, except for about two chapters worth of actually interesting revelations. That which isn't already known to the reader, and has no relation to the mysteries of the past or goings on of the present, is all completely useless and fluff. The worst travesty is the complete lack of any more references to the original books. That was the best part of Wicked, incorporating talking Animals, Lurline, the deadly desert, Boq, and a variety of other elements into the rich work. With the second we got a cocktease in the form of Tip. This third only builds on what's already there, dropping the name of Mumbly (Mombi). If you fell in love with the first book but were apprehensive about the second, I say save yourself the time and money and stop where you are. Maguire ended the first one perfectly and appropriately, allowing the reader to draw their own fantastic conclusions. If you've read the second and loved it - by all means, read this as well.

Jason Koivu

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Yes, A Lion Among Men has them all!

This is the Cowardly Lion's story in a nutshell...and a few other nuts are de-shelled as well. Watching cowards in action is hard to stomach. We forever wish them to be brave, to show some sign of courage. But that is not the Lion's way. Following him on his cowardly journey through life is taxing.

On the other hand, if you're a superfan of Oz - the sort who's at least read the Baum originals if not all of the myriad fanfic out there - Maguire's re-imaginings of the Land of Oz can be enthralling. He gives one-dimensional characters two and even three dimensions. He turns the map of Oz into a living geography. It's interesting to see what he's done with the place!

If you're not hep to Maguire's take on Oz, here's a word of warning: He has a somewhat comic approach and his material is occasionally blue. It's not all potty talk, but expect a fuck or shit now and then, along with the occasional mention of sex in it's many forms. His infusion of reality into a fantasy world matures the source material. Sometimes it works, sometimes it misses the mark. It's not always easy to go from serious to ridiculous and back again.

If A Lion Among Men is said to miss its mark - as many critics complain - it's due to a lack of a truly engaging story. Again, I point to the coward issue. Sure, one can sympathize with the Lion and his unfortunate courage-sapping beginnings, but sympathy runs out eventually upon seeing someone constantly fleeing and abandoning obligations and friends.


So. The third book in what's now referred to as The Wicked Years. Alright. I adore Wicked, both in its written and musical forms. Son of a Witch was a decent sequel. And I was really excited when I learned that we'd get the Lion's perspective in all this.

Brrr is on Emerald City business, in search of the oracle Yackle, who was mentioned in Madame Morrible's notes. Why? Mostly in search of both The Grimmerie, Elphaba's book of magic, and Liir, her son. Yackle was often on the outskirts of Elphaba's life and Brrr wants to know exactly why.

It soon gets mixed up with Brrr's past, Yackle's past, and the current civil war between EC and Munchkinland. Revolts, Emperors, and the like. But for all my excitement of this, I feel really let down. There were parts that were interesting, both with Brrr and Yackle. Brrr's childhood, for instance, since we know he was the cub in Wicked, and his interractions with Dorothy. Yackle's memories of Elphaba and Liir and Fiyero.

I'm sad to say, though, that I was often bored by this, and was just trying to finish it for the sake of finishing it. It's clear from the ending that there will be another book, and why not? People loved Wicked, and want to meet up with those familiar characters again. But I really, really hope the next book is much better. Too much politics and information that really isn't vital to the story.


Gregory Maguire wrote a terrific book called "Wicked" that I liked a lot and that spawned a Broadway musical that bore only a passing resemblance to it, but was also terrific. He couldn't leave well enough alone and wrote a sequel, "Son of a Witch" that was really bizarre and a little creepy and didn't make a whole lot of sense, but was okay--sort of. Well, it's sort of okay now that I've read installment three, "A Lion Among Men".

"Son of a Witch" left the reader with a ginormous cliffhanger. It read like an unfinished novel. Maguire left a lot of loose plot threads. So, you knew there had to be a sequel. Unfortunately, "A Lion Among Men" is not that sequel until the last 50-60 pages. It's not until the very end that he ties this story into the first two. When he does it's through a literal deus ex machina twist that just tells you absolutely everything. This book is 250 pages of prologue and 50 pages of story. Worse, that story is just a set up for volume 4.

I love my husband dearly and it was really thoughtful of him to get me this book knowing that I'd read the first two and that I loved the musical "Wicked". I just wish Maguire had written a book worthy of the first volume.


Considering how much I enjoyed Wicked, and how much more I enjoyed Son of a Witch, I found A Lion Among Men disappointing. I was all geared up to find out what happens with Liir and you-know-what-from-the-end-of-Son of a Witch, but the third book in this series barely mentions him. Instead, this book focuses primarily on the Cowardly Lion and his life experiences, and touches a bit on Fiyero's daughter.
I found the author's language annoying, if not incomprehensible at times (or maybe I just didn't have the patience to figure it out), and felt as though the effort he spent trying to sound profound could have been better spent developing a worthwhile plot for the Lion; overall the reading felt tedious.
That said, I did enjoy some of the book, particularly the bits involving Mother Yackle, a strange character first introduced in Wicked, whose history is revealed in A Lion Among Men, and is a lovely example of the bizarre, yet imaginatively delightful writing I was expecting from Gregory Maguire throughout the book.


I really love Gregory Maguire's writing style, and I love where he has gone with this story over the three novels. The structure of this book, however, felt somewhat scattered--it wasn't until the end, the last few chapters, where I started to feel that it had any coherency, unlike in Son of a Witch, where, although it may not have always been clear what the connections were, exactly, they always felt like connections. I suppose this is due to the fact that the protagonist in this story had little relation to characters I'd become attached to in the previous two novels--I still felt at odds at the end, and wishing a bit more to see the Point.

As always, however, Maguire's turn of phrase and ability to put complex thoughts into interesting prose did not disappoint, and whatever questions I had about the plot, I was carried through easily on the strength of the writing.


After the rushed feeling of "Son of a Witch", MacGuire redeems himself with this novel... it made me feel as if some wounds were healed for both the reader and the characters.


It has been three long years since we last traveled to OZ. And much has changed.

The land, once joined together, is now separated into two parties: those that support the current Wizard of OZ and the Munchkinlanders who long to be free and their own people.

It is not the OZ we’ve come to know. It is an OZ on the brink of war and on the cusp of social change. Whether it is change for the better remains to be seen.

Heedless of the turmoil of OZ that surrounds him, Brr, The Cowardly Lion, is on a mission. He must find Yackle, Oracle and Seer, and find out why her name was mentioned in the papers of the deceased Miss Morrible. Miss Morrible used to teach Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West.

He has other questions too: what really happened to Elphaba? Where is Liir, Elphaba’s son? And, though he is loathe to admit it, The Cowardly Lion has questions about himself too. Does Yackle know where he came from? Was he really freed by Elphaba from a cage?

Brr will get the answers he seeks. But first, Yackle wants to know where his life has taken him, what paths have brought him to her. Yackle asks him to tell her of his life before she goes to the life beyond death.

Brr concedes, thinking to tell her a few details to please her so that she will answer his questions. But Brr does not count on the power of the past. Once it is glanced at, it cries out to be examined, to be searched for clues, to be experienced all over again.

Memories, after all, are a powerful magic all their own….

A Lion Among Men is the third book in Maguire’s Wicked Years series and it’s the best one by far. Where Wicked was good, Son of a Witch was great, A Lion Among Men is amazing!

Where Wicked suffered from being too long and Son of a Witch suffered from not having enough to do with the characters we know and love from The Wizard of Oz, A Lion Among Men has us once again following the yellow brick road. And boy what a trip.

They say that the third time is a charm and that is certainly the case with Maguire’s A Lion Among Men. He’s clearly found his stride and it’s the best book in the series. What’s lovely about the novel is getting to know The Cowardly Lion from a different perspective. We only briefly glimpsed him in Wicked and Son of a Witch.

Now we get to know him intimately. This is his book after all.

And, much like Elphaba who had wickedness thrust upon her, I wonder if Brrr The Cowardly Lion is really cowardly after all.

A Lion Among Men is a very intimate book. As well as getting to know Brrr, we get to know Yackle and how she came to know the two women who would become the Wicked Witches of Oz. Some of the answers we learn in A Lion Among Men were from questions or mysteries first posed in Wicked, so the book should please fans of the series.

But even better than that, A Lion Among men is a wonderful parable and parallel of one lion among men who, though surrounded by people, is incredibly alone.

A Lion Among Men is one portrait of a lonely lion haunted by a need to belong. It’s at once funny, charming, harrowing, bleak and incredibly beautiful. If you haven’t read A Lion Among Men yet, do yourself a favour and visit OZ again.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

Charlotte (Buried in Books)

I don't know what to think about this one. I've wondered why I've persevered with this series (although it has been a long time since I read the previous book). These books are too clever for their own good - or at least they think they are.

The central characters in this book are the Cowardly Lion (who briefly appeared in the original book as cub) and Old Mother Yackle - the Oracle. Yackle still lives with the maunts and she wants to die, but try as she might she still lives. She even had herself shut in a crypt for a year and she still didn't die. So Yackle is trying to figure out why.

The Cowardly Lion (his real name is Brr) comes to Yackle for information - he's looking for Liir and thinks she can help him. But what he's really looking for is the Grimmerie. As a servant of the court he has to find it - otherwise he'll end up in Southstairs.

But Yackle needs to know if she can trust Brr - so she gets him to share memories. So this book is mainly flashbacks of both their past - but mainly Brr's past. Nothing ever seems to have gone right for him, no memory of his family, no memory of his childhood trip to Shiz, no friends, the only Animal in Society - when it wasn't fashionable to be an Animal. He stumbles from one uncomfortable situation to another.

Yackle has no memory of being young - she was born old. Blind (after events in the previous book) - you're never quite sure if the visions she has are real or not. But she was always there on the outskirts of Elphaba's life.

But Yackle isn't the only one prone to prophecy's - as a certain clock is making its way to the mauntery - accompanied by a woman that many thought was dead. Her tale is also woven into the story.

The problem is, that this story feels like a bit of a filler, a way to manoeuvre characters in preparation for the finale. Because it also rehashes what happened to Liir and Candle - so the search can begin for them and their little girl. Because war has broken out and maybe a witches granddaughter is the only one who can put things right?


Ever seen the clip from the old school Hercules movie in which the demi god throws his fists in the air and bellows at the top of his lungs, "Disappointeeeeeed!!!"" .... Upon finishing this book, that is exactly what I did, but I'm a nerdy ginger not a demi god, so the effect may have been less impactful. I adored Wicked, tolerated Son Of A Witch, and despised A Lion Among Men. I kept reading this last book hoping all the while that the everlasting backstory would turn into a decent plot, but my wishes were not granted. This book made no sense in context with the Wicked plot line, and was lacking in depth to be a stand alone novel. It failed to resolve the conflict involving Elphaba's death and was weak in addressing any thematic issues in earlier books. I was devastated when this book ended because the series felt so open ended. What of Liir's green child?? What happened to Candle? What was Yackle's significance to Nessarose? What was Madame Morrible's significance to Yackle?? And the biggest one of all.... IS ELPHABA DEAD?? Nothing was resolved. This book seemed more like an excuse to make money than a conclusion to a well written trilogy. McGuire did well in writing Wicked, but in order to retain your sanity, don't proceed with the series. Definitely not worth it.