Maguire, reimaginer of Oz, completes his series The Wicked Years, which bowed in with the exuberantly zeitgeisty Wicked (1995), with this pensive but action-filled capstone.
The truest gauge of whether a fantasy series is any good, apart from the ordinary tests of writing and storytelling, is whether the world the writer imagines is complete—and whether it’s interesting enough for a reader to be bothered to go there. In the made-up–world department, Maguire is a signal success, and a captivating storyteller to boot. This concluding volume finds Dorothy Gale back in Kansas—for a time, anyway, for 16-year-old Dorothy isn’t so keen on following Aunt Em’s dictum, “We aren’t going to live forever, and you must learn to manage in the real world.” Better flying monkeys than Topeka, one supposes. Up in Oz (or down, or sideways; the directions to the place are provisional, depending on which path the twister takes), the lines of genealogy and elective affinity alike are beginning to tauten as it’s revealed just whose blood the Emperor shares. Some of his kin, however, are hanging out with Glinda and her kind. Even after fate has made done with the unpleasant witchy-poos of east and west, things aren’t all skittles and beer up in the Emerald City. Indeed, as one short fellow remarks, “The Munchkinlanders discovered that liberation from sniffy Nessarose didn’t provoke them into wanting a return to domination by the EC. Can you blame them?” Can you indeed? While the Lollipop Guild is busy transforming itself into a cadre of freedom fighters, the rest of the Emerald City girds up for war within and war without, for there’s nothing that the Emperor likes more than a good dust-up. All is chaos, swerve and swirl: the once cowardly lion now has moments where he sounds like Sean Connery, people fire up cigarettes and mount grim battles of resistance and Maguire pays subtle homage to Tolkien and Rowling and even Frank Baum while having a grand old time in the fantastically complicated world he has crafted.
Is a neat ending possible? Not likely. There’s even room in this deliciously fun novel for a trap-door sequel. Stay tuned.