Docambrose's Reviews > A Lion Among Men

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
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Mar 10, 2009

it was amazing

By this book, there is little doubt in mind that Maguire captivates me in one of 3 ways. His prose, his painstaking abilities in Character definition, and a philosophical subtext which leaves one rapt through mid-novel portions that otherwise would have been tedious.
Just when everyone thought they would get a third book to tie up the mysteries of the first two, Maguire seems to have learned from the minor mistakes of the 2nd book as he previously attempted to abandon the the formula of Fairy tale revision to spin us a completely new story within the subtext of Oz, leaving many of us relieved that he's back to his old tricks, but he equally leaves us in suspense as to the unresolved affairs of the genuinely interesting Thropp family who gave us the Witch in the first place. Fortunately for both sides of the Wicked fan base, he compromises rather than revises earlier strategies.
The story centers around the supporting character of the first book as he struggles with identity, acceptance, and purpose. Now applied with the name of Brr, we're treated to the tragedy and triumph of the Lion previously incarcerated in the transparency of a children's story.
Where the first two books helped us to grasp a more adult, harsher Oz, Lion among Men helps to establish a character who was more or less unphased by the gore of a tyrannical Wizard.
After the (eventually) firebrand Thropp family made us carry sympathy for the subjugated citizens of the fictional country, this book presents the political and social apathy of the doubly subjugated Lion. The sort of spectrum which casts real world issues into hazes of unconscious partisanship when aided by self interest and uncertainty.
Brr provides an even greater humanity than even his counterpart, the Witch, yet somehow falls short of the complexity of earlier characters.
The old crone from earlier stories, Jackal, makes a more prominent role as a primary source of flashbacks and plot spackle as the venomous harridan helps the anxious Elphaba-phile relieve some of the suspense of the mysterious loose ends caused by the first two books.
Where Maguire succeeded was in expanding Brr's story into the relevance of the whole series while giving the Lion the intimate opportunity at a humanizing redemption, thereby breaking the curse of the sequel and giving fans the chance to enjoy a deceptive spin off.
Where Maguire failed was in setting up the crucial foundations of genuine interest in Brr. While redeeming, affable, and intelligent, we aren't treated to the same kind of united sympathy in his affairs like we were with Elphaba's.. The Life and Times of a cowardly lion perhaps give us a closer resemblance to the kind of lives we really live, but cater little to those seeking inspiring stories.
While clearly not the intention of Brr's tale, I could only delegate this observation to the category of nitpicking as I praise a wholly awe inspiring, introspective, and panoramic weaving of an acclaimed retelling of America's only fantasy land.
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