*very minor spoilers*
I was sorry to hear that "Out of Oz" is to be the last book in Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years series, but I am pleased to see that he has finished on such strong form. After adoring "Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" (despite suspecting I would not) and loving "Son of a Witch", I was most disappointed with "A Lion Among Men", and feared the final installment would not compare to the earliest two. I needn't have worried. I devoured it. Nearly 600 pages in two days, which is a sure sign of its readability. I could hardly put it down to eat until I was done.
The book opens with Glinda the Good - aging but determined to cling on to her youth, and still mourning and dreaming of the return of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) - being placed under house arrest for sedition, with an ever-decreasing retinue of staff. It's sad we only really see her for the first 120 pages - she always has been and remains one of the most vibrantly-drawn characters and her absence was notably felt in "A Lion Among Men". It is in her household that we meet Rain, Elphaba's granddaughter, and one of the strangest children in fiction.
Our adventure doesn't really start until Rain leaves Glinda's household, and old characters resurface. It is here I leave the plot for other readers to discover and turn to the characters. The Cowardly Lion, Brrr (who I wouldn't have objected to being shot for a rug after "A Lion Among Men") is back and now has some semblance of a backbone and has developed into a generally more likable character. We also reconnect with Ilianora - formerly Nor - who literally and figuratively veils herself from the world, but seems to deeply desire children despite sterilising herself in a most crude way. Rain's parents Liir and Candle return and try to reconnect with their odd little child. I was delighted that former nun Sister Apothecaire is back, revoking her vows of chastity and obedience in the process. And there's Dorothy Gale - hyper-cheery, optimistic, and still without a thought in that perky little head, despite being placed on trial for double-murder.
The book is well-paced; it is thoroughly enjoyable even before the adventure begins. Maguire uses the lyrical language we've come to expect from him in the previous three volumes. For fans of the film "The Wizard of Oz", and those of us who know the musical "Wicked", he even manages to sneak in a few clever references.
This is not the book to start with if you're new to Gregory Maguire. It will make no sense at all unless you have read the whole Wicked Years series so far. Those of us who have followed the series won't get every outcome they may have hoped for. Not everyone gets the "happy ending" they seek. However, it's none the worse for it, and I think this finale strikes just the right balance of tying up loose ends of the past and opening the door to the future.
Recommended to all readers of this intelligent fantasy series for adults.