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A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years [Paperback]

Gregory Maguire
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 17 2009 Wicked Years (Book 3)

Return to a darker Oz with Gregory Maguire. In A Lion Among Men, the third volume in Maguire’s acclaimed, New York Times bestselling series The Wicked Years, a fuller, more complex Cowardly Lion is brought to life and gets to tell his remarkable tale. It is a story of oppression and fear in a world gone mad with war fever—of Munchkins, Wizards, and Wicked Witches—and especially of a gentle soul and determined survivor who is truly A Lion Among Men.


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A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years + Out Of Oz: The Final Volume in the Wicked Years + Son Of A Witch: A Novel
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Review

A New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Denver Post, and USA Today bestseller (No Source)

“Maguire’s work is melodic, symphonic and beautiful; it is dejected and biting and brave. . . . In fabulous details and self-mocking language, Maguire displays his gift for whimsical portrayals of the broken, the powerless, the hopeless, the bad.” (Los Angeles Times)

“Much to savor, laugh at, and think about. . . . A page-turning fantasy and a timely political allegory.” (USA Today)

“Entertaining....The author mixes some relatively weighty existential themes—the search for self, faith, redemption—into his whimsical story line. [A] darkly enchanting saga” (Publishers Weekly)

“This Oz goes far beyond L. Frank Baum’s; it’s as surreal as a dream, but as immaculately and impeccably detailed as history. Maguire’s wizardlike grasp over every aspect of this reinvented land rivals classic literary landscapes like Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.” (Albany Times Union)

“So well-crafted that readers of all ages could enjoy witnessing Brrrr’s transformation from an insecure kitten in the woods to a compassionate, engaged ‘manimal.’” (Christian Science Monitor)

“The third book in Maguire’s Wicked Years is at once funny, charming, harrowing, bleak and incredibly beautiful.” (The American Chronicle)

“Engrossing...Maguire is a masterful storyteller with an uncanny flair for mixing political and personal while exploring what it means—and what it costs—to be accepted in a society.” (New York Daily News)

“As usual, Maguire, a seasoned fabulist, populates his version of Oz with a cast of utterly fantastical characters who must face their own inner demons while tumult and uncertainty rages around them. An absolute must-read for fans of this ever-evolving dark fairy tale.” (Booklist)

“The minute you open A Lion Among Men, you’re back in Maguire’s exquisitely detailed environment, caught up once again in his geography, his characters, his worldview, touched anew by the loneliness that lurks in the heart of all things.” (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

From the Back Cover

Since the publication of Wicked, millions of readers have discovered Gregory Maguire's fantastically encyclopedic Oz, a world filled with characters both familiar and new, darkly conceived and daringly reimagined. In the third volume of the Wicked Years, we return to Oz, seen now through the eyes of the Cowardly Lion.

At once a portrait of a would-be survivor and a panoramic glimpse of a world gone shrill with war fever, Gregory Maguire's A Lion Among Men is written with the sympathy and power that have made his books contemporary classics.


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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coward No More Oct. 21 2008
By Jamieson Villeneuve TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
It has been three long years since we last traveled to OZ. And much has changed.

The land, once joined together, is now separated into two parties: those that support the current Wizard of OZ and the Munchkinlanders who long to be free and their own people.

It is not the OZ we've come to know. It is an OZ on the brink of war and on the cusp of social change. Whether it is change for the better remains to be seen.

Heedless of the turmoil of OZ that surrounds him, Brr, The Cowardly Lion, is on a mission. He must find Yackle, Oracle and Seer, and find out why her name was mentioned in the papers of the deceased Miss Morrible. Miss Morrible used to teach Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West.

He has other questions too: what really happened to Elphaba? Where is Liir, Elphaba's son? And, though he is loathe to admit it, The Cowardly Lion has questions about himself too. Does Yackle know where he came from? Was he really freed by Elphaba from a cage?

Brr will get the answers he seeks. But first, Yackle wants to know where his life has taken him, what paths have brought him to her. Yackle asks him to tell her of his life before she goes to the life beyond death.

Brr concedes, thinking to tell her a few details to please her so that she will answer his questions. But Brr does not count on the power of the past. Once it is glanced at, it cries out to be examined, to be searched for clues, to be experienced all over again.

Memories, after all, are a powerful magic all their own....

A Lion Among Men is the third book in Maguire's Wicked Years series and it's the best one by far. Where Wicked was good, Son of a Witch was great, A Lion Among Men is amazing!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By L Toth
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Like I said, WICKED was good, SON OF A WITCH was ok... I guess. It dragged on and a lot could have been left out but good ending. Now this... A LION AMONG MEN was probably the hardest book to finish as it really dragged on and was literally quite boring. The caption on the back of the book made it seem so interesting but not so. Very disappointing. A lot of loose ends but I can only hope that this will all be wrapped up in OUT OF OZ...Maquire's 4th and final book in the wicked years. You might want to do yourself a favor and check out the library first before opening up your wallet.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Shipping takes way too long Jan. 29 2012
Format:Hardcover
I like the wicked series. But shipment of this item takes too long. The only reason I didn't cancel was because I got it for 4 dollars. At 18 dollars I'd go to wal mart to buy it. Plus it was sent by Canada post. Which adds a week to shipping. Dissapointed.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  208 reviews
77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heir to the kingdom Oct. 17 2008
By Jay Dickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
L. Frank Baum was absolutely fascinated by (and exemplary of) Yankee ingenuity, and that's part of what made Gregory Maguire such a perfect heir to Baum in WICKED, his 1995 dark revisioning of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. One of the greatest pleasures of Maguire's novel was to see how Baum's fantasy world of Oz might look from a more sober adult perspective, and though Maguire's own fantasy of what Oz might be ultimately superseded Baum's (which is appropriate, given that both books are about repeated regime changes), Maguire's dystopic fantasy was aided mightily by the efficient clockwork of Baum's plot acting as a motor propelling the events along. You knew that Elphaba would have to wind up in the Vinkus (or "Winkie Country") as the Wicked Witch of the West, and that Dorothy would come along eventually with that fateful bucket of water. (That Dorothy should show up to be merely a remorseful pawn in the extended games of manipulation waged among Elphaba, the Lady Glinda, and the Wizard was not only Maguire's grandest irony but one of the most satisfying parts of his book.) Maguire's first sequel, SON OF A WITCH, suffered greatly from the removal of this Baumian framework. The masterplot of this later work seemed based on the George W. Bush administration rather than anything dreamed up by L. Frank Baum (with Tip, Mombi, and the four-horned cow making only the briefest of appearances to remind us of Baum's own sequel to his first oz novel). Maguire's vision of sexual couplings hidden against a background of oppression and political upheaval seemed a bit adrift and unfocused, and few of the mysteries raised in Maguire's first book received any answer.

This new sequel, A LION AMONG MEN, finds Maguire on much firmer ground: we're much more firmly rooted in Baum's fantasyland, with the Cowardly Lion (glimpsed only briefly in WICKED) now taking center stage, aided by the Glass Cat, that Baumian character introduced in THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ whose lazy snarkiness made it an absolute natural for inclusion in Maguire's books. Dispatched to interview Yackle, the mysterious old woman who kept appearing at different intervals in Elphaba's life, the Cowardly Lion finds her in the Cloister of St. Glinda not far from the Emerald City, and here we find answers to many of the mysteries from the first book in "The Wicked Years" series: who Yackle is, what happened to Elphaba's Grimmerie, what the inhabitants of the mysterious land of the Glikkus nestled in a far corner of Maguire's Oz are like, and (at last!) what the purpose is of the terrifying Clock of the Time Dragon that haunted the opening sections of WICKED. (We also find out why the Cowardly Lion acquired his adjectival descriptor.) Much is left open, such as the fates of Liir, the true Scarecrow, and (most maddeningly) the missing Ozma, and it's hard to see from how Maguire ends this book as to how the events of THE MAGICAL LAND OF OZ, however distorted, might later come to pass (or even how the Glass Cat will end up eventually at the home of Dr. Pipt). Equally frustrating is the fact that so much of this sequel's action is circumscribed in the Cloister and hemmed in by the Ozian civil wars started since the first book in the series. But even if this work is not quite up to the standards of WICKED, it is certainly quite a great deal stronger and more compelling than SON OF A WITCH.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read for the characters and Oz Oct. 20 2008
By New England Yankee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As I see the Wicked Years (as Maguire has taken to calling this book series), the strongest of the books by a long shot is Wicked. Shadowing the events, places, and characters of the well-known story provided the opportunity for Maguire to provide alternative views of an incredible number of things, not to mention adding details of his own imagining. I termed Wicked astonishing in my review as a result.

With Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men, I still find Maguire compelling, but these stories aren't quite as rich in the same kind of detail. It was the twist on the familiar that made Wicked *so* well-done. That still happens here to a degree - Maguire is particularly adept at nailing conversational and thought details that accurately reflect the nature of the characters. What's lost, however, is the delicious alternative take on the story you thought you knew. What's left is a very good story to be sure, extending the now familiar Maguire version of Oz, and further developing character versions first introduced in the earlier book(s), but it doesn't quite rise to the same level.

How long can this continue? Got me, though I wouldn't be surprised to see books focused on the Scarecrow and Tin Man in the Wicked Years series. You never know, maybe Maguire will even do an alternative version of the storyline in "Return to Oz" (with Fairuza Balk). If you're going to do alternative takes on fairy tales, you might as well do an alternative on an alternative, too!

A good read, and if you enjoyed Wicked and Son of a Witch, you will also enjoy A Lion Among Men.
49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Relatively Strong with a Few Furry Bits Oct. 14 2008
By M. Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Maguire faces a conundrum; he's created arguably one of the most powerful heroines in modern literature and also killed her off as he was required to do; he has to therefore build on the success of Elphaba without being able to portray her. Son of A Witch and now A Lion Among Men continues the story of Oz in which Elphaba acts only as a background character whose presence, because of the success of Wicked, must somehow seep into each subsequent novel.
I did not find Brrr- the Cowardly Lion appealing. I was not as interested in his story as I thought I'd be. I had expected Maguire to weave a traumatic tale of abuse, rejection and how Brrr's relationships in life created a nervous and, perhaps, psychologically disturbed individual. I didn't get that, at least not to the extent I expected from Maguire. Perhaps I just did not engage in Brrr's journey as I found the character quite dislikable and aversive (and not in the Elphaba type of way). I did enjoy the allegorical dimension in which the Lion is perceived as being a collaborationist to the Wizard's regime and also a sympathizer to the Witch's cause at the same time. The discussion regarding the coming and going of different political regimes was also a poignant one. Maguire is a master of political allegory and there is much to be found in this novel. Oz is a rich, dark and complex world on the brink of civil war and Maguire builds the tension brilliantly. With the two Witches who were leaders of separatist states dead, Oz is in freefall.
The novel tells two distinct stories, that of the Lion and that of the mysterious Yackle who appeared to frequent Elphaba's life in Wicked. Although I enjoyed not knowing who Yackle was in Wicked and the many questions that arose about her, her story was the most enjoyable in this novel. The second half of A Lion Among Men pieces together the significance of the allusive Clock of the Time Dragon, Yackle's purpose and what eventually happened to the Grimmerie. Fate is also a recurring theme as it was in the previous two novels and Maguire also begins to challenge unquestioned faith. There's a slight discord between Brrr's story and Yackle's and the two narratives simply don't mesh.
Because the characterization of Brrr was not as strong as I had hoped, I found myself longing to read more about Maguire's familiar characters such as Glinda and Liir. Although both are mentioned, neither appear in the novel and I had hoped to discover more about Liir's journey, especially after finishing Son of a Witch a few years ago for I desperate to read more. My biggest disappointment is that this novel did not continue what Son of A Witch established and where it left off. Maguire will hopefully continue Liir's story in future novels.
An enjoyable read as Oz is such a rich tapestry of people and places but perhaps sadly lacking in Brrr's narrative.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All you have to read is the last chapter. Feb. 10 2009
By S. Matz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Wiked" was fascinating. "Son of a Witch" frustrating because it was difficult to like any of the characters. But "A Lion Among Men" suffers badly from the "trilogy sickness." This book has no plot, again no characters you can relate to or like, goes over old ground, and creates a history for the Cowardly Lion that is far less interesting than it could have been. Really, you only need to read the last chapter to get what you came for. The rest of it is drudgery. There's a bit of humor here and there, and some appreciated irony. But not nearly enough to make this worth the time I took to read it. I kept hoping it would get better but it didn't. Don't waste your time.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Virtually unreadable - with no storyline Nov. 29 2008
By RonAnnArbor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is going to prove to be the backbreaker in this series for maguire. Wicked was wonderful, if offputting for many readers. Son of a Witch helped to alienate even more readers with its convoluted storyline, but at least it had a storyline - something was happening throughout the book.

A Lion Among Men has virtually no storyline -- Brrr the cowardly lion recounting (small) portions of his life, and Yackle, not interesting enough to know much about, tying up a bit of information about the Grimmerie -- itself, not interesting enough to know about.

There are a few answers about the Clock of the Time Dragon here -- although not much -- and the books ending leaves every single question readers have unanswered - and I mean every single one: Where is Lir? Where is Candle? Is Elphaba really dead? Is she coming back? Why is the Tin man such an afterthought in these books?

Clearly, there are going to be more books in the Wicked series -- and readers are probably best advised to just skip this third book in the series and wait for the story to come back in the next book.

My fear is that many Maguire readers are going to stop taking the journey after this one.
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