Gregory Maguire’s A Lion Among Men is the third and latest book in The Wicked Series. This series follows the times in an evolving Land of Oz where the Wicked Witch of the West is related to the Wizard of Oz and the current Emperor of Oz may not be the benevolent leader that he tries to portray.
Chances are that if you’ve found this entry via a search engine, then you’ve already read the first two books in this series so I’ll refrain from too much history. If not, then feel free to read my reviews of Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and Son of a Witch.
A Lion Among Men begins with the Cowardly Lion (his name is Brrr) meeting with the oracle known as Yackle. Those of you who have read the two previous books in this series know that Yackle has played a sideline role in the Wicked Witch of the West’s life and did a great deal to help Liir overcome almost certain death during his convalescence at St. Glinda’s mauntery. Brrr is sent to meet with Yackle to ascertain what she knows about the Wicked Witch of the West, Liir, the Thropp family, and (most importantly) the Grimmerie (the Witch’s magic book). The interplay between Yackle and her fellow maunts (think of them as nuns) is pretty funny and the reader is led to believe that Yackle actually rises from the dead to speak with Brrr. Once you get to the end of the book, the oddities that take place in the beginning of the book become clearer, but that’s true of any good story.
Yackle proves to be a tough nut for Brrr to crack and for each piece of information that she gives to the Lion, he either recalls a repressed memory or has to speak about some part of his past. His first memory is of him at the young age of three years old, wandering the northern reaches of Oz not knowing who he is and certainly never knowing who he will become. In fact, this memory is where the Lion actually begins to speak to other creatures and finds his first “friend” in Jemmsy.
The story continues with more of the Lion’s memories being played out and, from my perspective as a reader, I thought the revelation of these memories was especially wordy and somewhat drawn out in the beginning of the novel. Maguire could have sped up the process and gotten the reader to some of the more interesting parts of the story quicker.
While Brrr interacts with Yackle, a young woman becomes a member of the The Clock of the Time Dragon – a traveling show that played a large part in the first book in this series. Through this young woman’s eyes, we see the scant relationships of those involved with the Clock. Frankly, these interludes in the beginning of the novel are a bit tedious and don’t make much sense until the end of the story.
Like the two previous novels, Maguire uses a winding tone in his storytelling and wedges in unnecessary sexual scenes. I have to admit, though, that after reading the first two books I could call when the awkward sexual moment was coming in this one (though I didn’t predict the blood – you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more).
After the slow start, the book becomes a fun read and I found myself zipping through it much quicker than the others in the series. What is especially nice about A Lion Among Men is that some of the loose ends from the first two novels are satisfactorily addressed. Lost characters are brought back into the story and unanswered questions are answered.
We’re still in the dark about Candle, Liir, and their child, but I’m sure that will all be addressed in a future story. After the slow start, I enjoyed reading A Lion Among Men and I recommend it to fans of the fantasy genre or those of you who have already read the first two books.