Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West 

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is the first book in a 4 part series from Gregory Maguire. This is a book I’ve had on my shelf for years and never quite got around to reading it until now. 

How many times has that happened to you? You have a book, and it seems like it takes forever to simply pick it up and start reading it? I have no idea why or how that happens, but it has happened with several books I own, and this is one of them.

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Wicked is a book about the Wicked Witch of the West, from The Wizard of Oz. Her side of the story, so to speak. Who was she before Dorothy’s house landed on her sister? The Wizard of Oz has always been one of my favorite movies. It is timeless and I can watch it over and over. Needless to say, when I found this book, I was intrigued! 

Have you read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West? Come on in and let me tell you about it! 

If you’re enjoying this review, feel free to read more about my favorite books


About Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West 

This is the book that started it all! The basis for the smash hit Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Gregory Maguire’s breathtaking New York Times bestseller Wicked views the land of Oz, its inhabitants, its Wizard, and the Emerald City, through a darker and greener (not rosier) lens. 

Brilliantly inventive, Wicked offers us a radical new evaluation of one of the most feared and hated characters in all of literature: the much maligned Wicked Witch of the West who, as Maguire tells us, wasn’t nearly as Wicked as we imagined.


Thoughts on Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West 

Let me first say that this is not a young adult book, not by any stretch of the imagination. There are sexual references and talk in the book, that I would not recommend for kids. It is very much an adult themed book, and should be treated as such. Many people who have seen the Broadway play adapted from the book run out and buy the book, only to be very surprised after reading. 

I have enjoyed starting this series, and I’m looking forward to starting the next book, Son Of A Witch. Gregory Maguire takes a lot of time to delve into the characters. Character development is so important in this kind of a book. I had a preconceived notion of what the Wicked Witch was supposed to be. Since this is “her side” of the story, the characters are vital. 

My chief complaint with the character development in this story is that there is too much of it. Yes, it is important, as I just talked about. The biggest problem is when it is overdone, the plot gets lost in translation. When the plot is lost along the way, the story becomes tedious. Sometimes it feels like there are parts and extra characters that are purely filler and nothing else, as they don’t add any real value to the story.

Gregory Maguire bounces around in parts of Elphaba’s (The Wicked Witch) life, and isn’t the most cohesive account I’ve ever seen. It feels like the reader is left to guess what happens in the parts the author leaves out. Think about trying to follow a lost squirrel on crack in the dark. It makes about that much sense, and becomes really frustrating because of it.

Elphaba is said to have started out life as a “good” person or child, and it was only after Dorothy’s house dropped on her sister that she became evil. Yet I don’t get that impression when reading the book. Religion and politics play a huge role in the book. That also contributes to the length of the book. The real question is, what determines good and bad? Why is it always one or the other, and nothing in between?

Elphaba’s father was a religious leader in his region of Oz. Yet Elphaba claims not to have a soul, dropped out of college to join an underground organization. She was basically a homegrown terrorist in her younger years. Not knowing who she “worked” for, just waiting for orders to do different missions or tasks. 


Final Thoughts on Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West 

Toward the end is when the plot makes a real comeback and things get interesting. Elphaba is starting to be rumored to be a witch. Then the plot becomes part of what we all know from The Wizard of Oz, and it all starts to make some sense. 

My recommendation for reading this book is to read it slowly. This isn’t a book that can be rushed, because it is simply too busy with too many names and characters to keep track of. Wicked took me longer than normal to read too. But I wanted to follow along with all of the characters. If you’re like me and struggle hard with too many characters, it may not be the book for you, and you should pick a different one to read.

I’m calling this book three stars. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve read, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. I just found myself disappointed that in comparison to how much I love The Wizard of Oz, I was greatly disappointed with this story. We definitely aren’t in Kansas anymore with this story!

I still plan on reading the other books in the series, because I am curious if they follow the same patterns, or if this is a series that evolves and gets better as it goes. Because I really want to know. My reader mind is too curious to give up on the series just yet. But I will likely take a break and come back to the books at a later time.



Have you read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West from author Gregory Maguire, or any of the other books in the series? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

If you have seen the play and read the book, I would really love to hear your opinion in comparing the two, because I have heard they are so totally different.

About the Author 

Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature from 1979-1985. 

In 1987 he co-founded Children’s Literature New England. He still serves as co-director of CLNE, although that organization has announced its intention to close after its 2006 institute. 

The bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. 

He has three adopted children and is married to painter Andy Newman. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.


Purchasing Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

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  • Laura

    I have never read book as it does appear white long. I have seen the play though and I really enjoyed it. I have always enjoyed the story. Maybe one day I’ll get round to reading it. Thanks for sharing your review x

  • Scott DeNiciola

    Living outside of NYC I’ve seen the broadway musical a couple of times and it’s great A very interesting look at how she came to be and why she turned “wicked”. I’d love to check out the books. Absolutely fantastic titles on all of them. Now I just need to find the time to start reading regularly again and I can add these to the list!

  • Nyxie

    Oh I’ve never read this book but I’m suddenly very interested in doing so. I’ve not even seen the play but everyone tells me how good it is! I’ll definitly need to catch a show soon. Thank you for sharing (and sparking my inner theatre geek).

    • Snehal

      I enjoy reading such fantasy books 😍 how come i never came across this one! Thanks for reviewing it dear, i gotta buy this soon! 😃

  • Cynthia

    I read Wicked several years ago and I can definitely see your point. It felt very slow at times and difficult to follow. I still loved it though! I love the concept of telling a story from the villain’s point of view. Or even just knowing the backstory, really helps the reader empathize with the villain. I’ll have to see the musical sometime!

  • Lindsay Brown

    I didn’t even realise that they Broadway show “Wicked” was based on a book series! And here I am thinking that I am well read. Ha! This sounds like a very interesting book as I love to hear the other side of well known stories.

    Although I totally get what you mean when there is too much character development and it takes away from the plot.

    I think that I will have to look into this series. The book names are amazing too!

  • Sarah

    I have seen this book around for a few years and often pick it up to look at it when in a bookstore, but have yet to actually buy and read it. I don’t know what is stopping me, outside of knowing I have hundreds of unread neglected books at home, but one of these days I have to read it. It certainly sounds like an interesting read.

  • Charmaine Daisley

    I like that the author saw an opportunity to gain recognition by tagging his theme to the popular story of The Wizard of Oz, as millions of people know, and love, that story. It reminds me of a children’s book I read, that gave the perspective of the wolf in the story of the three little pigs – the wolf told his side of the story as a good guy who got a bad reputation because of a series of misunderstandings. Wicked seems like a book I’d want to read on days that I can spend hours immersed in reading. Thanks for letting me know I can read the Wicked Witch of the Wests’ side of the story.

  • The Sunny Side Lifestyle Co.

    I read this book a few years ago but feel as if I should re-read. I love the concept of looking at a well-known story from a different perspective. As the saying goes there’s always your version, my version and the truth.

  • Kelly

    I remember a few years ago seeing a play about the wicked witch of the west. I loved it and loved seeing it from her perspective. I should look into reading the book. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Thuy

    I never read that four part book series, but I did see the musical. I need to get these books for my little sister, she love books with magic

  • Tracy @ Cleland Clan

    Sometimes I think we are twins! I bought Wicked several years ago as well, and still haven’t read past the first few chapters. I do appreciate your thoughts that it’s not suitable for young adults–it hadn’t made it to my classroom shelves, but that was the ultimate destination plan. Obviously that may not work.

    • The Prepping Wife

      If you’re teaching high school, like juniors and seniors, I would say it would be no problem at all. Freshmen and sophomores, it is questionable. Middle school, definitely not. I don’t know what grade(s) you teach, but that would be my best guideline on that.

  • Debra Roberts

    I actually think I could read these! I used to love to watch the Wizard of Oz just to scare myself…weird I know and that damn witch gave me nightmares like no tomorrow! I can’t wait to see Wicked…I’ve missed it every time it’s come to our city!

  • Britt K

    I absolutely ADORED this book! It was fun hearing about everything from a different point of view. I keep meaning to check out the other books. I grew up loving the Wizard of Oz and quickly dove into the different ‘spin-off’ style books and fan fiction as I got older.
    I do agree with your statement that this is a book that you need to read slowly. Don’t be afraid to reread passages when necessary either. There are so many little details that are easily overlooked. I know that the first time through, I had to go back and reread quite a bit.

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