A Lion among Men (Wicked Years Series #3)

A Lion among Men (Wicked Years Series #3)

3.8 299
by Gregory Maguire
     
 

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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,

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The entertaining third installment of bestseller Maguire's Wicked Years series, a revisionist chronicle of L. Frank Baum's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, examines the tragically misunderstood life of the Cowardly Lion before and after his adventures with Dorothy and company. As all-out war looms between the Munchkinland guerrillas and the emperor of Oz's Emerald City soldiers, Brrr the lion, now working as an imperial spy, must somehow glean invaluable information from a crone named Yackle before she dies. But during his interrogation of the irritable oracle, Brrr, the proverbial loner and outsider, uncovers insights into his own mysterious past-and finally begins to understand what it feels like to belong. As usual, the author mixes some relatively weighty existential themes-the search for self, faith, redemption-into his whimsical story line. Newcomers to Maguire's Oz should probably begin with Wicked, the first entry in this darkly enchanting saga. 11-city author tour. (Oct. 14)

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Library Journal

In this third entry in his "Wicked Years" series-following Wicked and Son of a Witch-Maguire (www.gregorymaguire.com) returns to Oz, this time homing in on Brrr, aka the Cowardly Lion. Though at times needlessly complex, the story ultimately both intrigues and entertains. Audie® Award winner John McDonough's (Grace Will Lead Me Home) performance is adequate, though Brrr's low growlings can be difficult to understand. Recommended for most fiction collections. [Audio clip available through www.harperaudio.com; the Morrow hc was recommended "for all fiction collections," LJ10/15/08.-Ed.]
—Lisa Anderson

Kirkus Reviews
The further adventures of L. Frank Baum's beloved characters are more fatefully connected with the political history of Oz in this third installment of Maguire's justly praised revisionist series. In Wicked and Son of a Witch, we were treated to engagingly comic melodramas that followed (respectively) Baum's heroine Dorothy and the fugitive son (Liir) of Wicked Witch Elphaba Thropp through an endangered fantasyland blighted by mad power struggles. This time around, the major conflict is engineered by an intellectually challenged puppet emperor addicted to waging multiple wars (hmmm . . . ). And our protagonist is the Cowardly Lion (named Brrr)-bereft of his family, Brrr is traveling through Oz undercover as an imperial spy, in exchange for immunity from draconian Animal Adverse Laws that target talking animals. Brrr's investigations take him to the Mauntery (i.e. cloister) of St. Glinda, where a moribund seeress (Yackle, who's presumably too ornery to die) unfurls information in a narrative neatly juxtaposed with Brrr's unhappy memories and compromised present plans. The cast of characters also includes a clan of forest bears, a beauteous maiden or two, the rebellious citizens of Munchkinland and a surly dwarf who (in quite Wagnerian fashion) guards an ancient book of magic (the Grimmerie) and the Clock of the Time Dragon. Most of this is superbly entertaining, but Maguire has bitten off more complex interactions than he can chew, and his story's seams frequently show. No matter. Brrr and his acquaintances are irresistible company, and issues of legitimate and responsible rule are herein really rather subtly grafted onto the venerable free will vs. predestination conundrum ("With so muchwritten in magic, how can we hope to become agents culpable for our own lives ?"). Maguire's inspired world-building strides from strength to strength.
Los Angeles Times
“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.”
New Orleans Times-Picayune
“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.”
USA Today
“Much to savor, laugh at, and think about. . . . A page-turning fantasy and a timely political allegory.”
New York Daily News
“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.”
Booklist
“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.”
Christian Science Monitor
“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.’”
Albany Times Union
“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.”
The American Chronicle
“The third book in Maguire’s Wicked Years is at once funny, charming, harrowing, bleak and incredibly beautiful.”
No Source
A New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Denver Post, and USA Today bestseller

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061981746
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/06/2009
Series:
Wicked Years Series , #3
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
44,833
File size:
2 MB

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Read an Excerpt

A Lion Among Men

Chapter One

The time came for her to die, and she would not die; so perhaps she might waste away, they thought, and she did waste, but not away; and the time came for her to receive final absolution, so they set candles upon her clavicle, but this she would not allow. She blasphemed with gusto and she knocked the scented oils across the shroud they'd readied on a trestle nearby.

"God love her," they said, in bitter, unconvincing voices...or perhaps they meant May the Unnamed God love her, our unrepentant sister Yackle, for we certainly can't.

"Sink me in the crypt," she said, speaking directly to them for the first time in years. "You're too young to know; that's how they used to do it. When the time came for an elder to go and she wouldn't, they settled her down in the ossuary so she could chummy up to the bones. Supplied her with a couple of candles and a bottle of wine. Let her get used to the notion. They came back a year later to sweep up the leavings."

"Mercy," said whoever was nearby to hear.

"I insist," she replied. "Check with Sister Scholastica and she'll bear me out.""She's raving mad," said someone else, chocolately. Yackle approved of chocolate, and indeed, everything edible. Since Yackle's eyesight had gone out for good a decade earlier, she identified individuals by the degree and idiosyncracy of their halitosis.

"She's always been raving mad," said a third observer, Vinegarish Almonds. "Isn't that rather sweet?"

Yackle reached for something to throw, and all she could find was her other hand, which wouldn't detach.

"She's doing sign language." "The poor, deluded dovelette.""Clinging to life so...whatever for?" "Perhaps it isn't her time."

"It is," said Yackle, "it is, I keep telling you. Won't you fiends let me die? I want to go to hell in a handbasket. Put me out of my misery and into the Afterlife where I can do some real damage, damn it."

"She's not herself," said someone.

"She was never reliably herself, to hear tell," said another.

The bedsheets caught fire spontaneously. Yackle found she was rather enjoying this, but it helped neither her reputation nor her rescue that the only liquid nearby with which to douse the flames was cognac.

Still, Yackle was not to be dissuaded. "Isn't there a Superior in the House?" she asked. "Someone who can lay down the law?"

"The Superior Maunt died a decade ago," they replied. "We work by consensus now. We've noted your request to be interred alive. We'll put it on the agenda and take it up next week at Council."

"She'll burn the House down, and us with it," muttered a novice, sometime later. Yackle could tell that the innocent speaker was talking to herself, to stoke her courage.

"Come here, my duckie," said Yackle, grasping. "I smell a little peppermint girl nearby, and no garlicky matron hovering. Are you the sentry? On our own, are we? Come, sit nearer. Surely there is still a Sister Apothecaire in residence? With her cabinets of nostrums and beckums, tonics and tablets? She must possess a sealed jar, it would be dark blue glass, about yea-high, pasted over with a label picturing three sets of crossed tibias. Couldn't you find this and pour me out a fatal little decoction?"

"Not a spoonful of it, I en't the grace to do it," said Peppermint Girl. "Let go a me, you harpy. Let go or...or I'll bite you!"

Out of charity to the young, Yackle let go. It would do the poor girl no good to take a bite of old Yackle. The antidote en't been invented yet, and so on.

Hours and days pass at elastic rhythms for the blind. Whether the pattern of her naps and wakings followed the ordinary interruptions of daylight by nighttime, Yackle couldn't tell. But someone she recognized as Broccoli Breath eventually informed her that the sorority had decided to bow to Yackle's final wish. They would install her in the crypt among the remains of women long dead. She could approach bodily corruption at whatever speed appealed to her. Three candles, and as to nourishment, red or white?

"A beaker of gasoline and a match as a chaser," said Yackle, but she was indulging in a joke; she was that pleased. She nominated a saucy persimmon flaucande and a beeswax candle scented with limeberries...for the aroma, not for the light. She was beyond light now.

"Good voyage, Eldest Soul," they sang to her as they carried her down the stairs. Though she weighed no more than sugarbrittle she was awkward to move; she couldn't govern her own arms or legs. As if motivated by a spite independent of her own, her limbs would keep ratcheting out to jab into doorjambs. The procession lacked a fitting dignity.

"Don't come down for at least a year," she sang out, giddy as a lambkin. "Make that two. I might be old as sin itself, but once I start rotting it won't be pretty. If I hammer at the cellar door don't open it; I'm probably just collecting for some public charity in hell."

"Can we serenade you with an epithalamium, as you go to marry Death?" asked one of the bearers, tucking in the shroud to make it cozy.

"Save your doggy breath. Go, go, on to the rest of your lives, you lot. It's been a swell, mysterious mess of a life. Don't mind me. I'll blow the candles out before I lower my own lights."

A year later when a sister ventured into the crypt to prepare for another burial, she came across the hem of Yackle's shroud. She wept at the notion of death until Yackle sat up and said, "What, morning already? And I having those naughty dreams!" The maunt's tears turned to screams, and she fled upstairs to start immediately upon a long and lively career as an alcoholic.

A Lion Among Men. Copyright © by Gregory Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Lost; Mirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
June 9, 1954
Place of Birth:
Albany, New York
Education:
B.A., SUNY at Albany, 1976; M.A., Simmons College, 1978; Ph.D., Tufts University, 1990
Website:
http://www.gregorymaguire.com

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Lion Among Men (Wicked Years Series #3) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 297 reviews.
AvenueQ More than 1 year ago
I greatly enjoyed the first two books in the Wicked series. This only added to my disappointment with this book. While the idea of hearing the untold story of the Cowardly Lion does sound intriguing, this book lacked much in the way of a continuing storyline. Outside of retrospection, this book did very little in the way of furthering the story in respect to the first two books. While I wouldn't say not to read the book, I will say to wait for the paperback or borrow it from a friend as it was not worth the $20. In all due respect to Mr.Maguire, I think this book seemed more like a paycheck than a story. While I would love to see how things turn out for Brrr, Nor, Candle, and Liir, I would not want to spend over 300 pages to advance one day in the overall story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved Wicked and Son of a Witch, but this seemed to drag on and got to the point that I made myself read it and finish the book so I could get started on the 4th book.
Bwitchd3 More than 1 year ago
This book fills in some of the holes left by the first two books. Secrets are revealed, stories are told, and futures are made. Brrr is an interesting character that both cares and doesn’t care. He wants nothing to do with society, but can’t seem to stay away from it. All he wants is love and a home, and by the end of this book he finds it in the strangest of places. Yackle has been a mysterious character throughout this series, and her story is finally told, albeit reluctantly. You won’t be able to wait for the last book!
alicelouise More than 1 year ago
without "Wicked" or "Son of a Witch". I was intrigued by the Cowardly Lion and maybe a counter novel to L. Frank Baum's Oz novel of the Cowardly Lion. It was not to be. The characterization of Brr was great. In the lines of dialogue you could almost hear Bert Lahr's voice for Brr. You find out that he is not so craven as much as he is a pragmatist. In times of great upheaval Brr lands on his feet. He may not land in a glorious manner; mind you. He might only gain a laughable title. He does land and not get driven out or swept away like the other Animals. The other characters were dropped too quickly and were swept away. I wanted more of Cubbins and Jemmsy. It may have been done by design. I hope the 4th book draws from the Baum novel that features TikTok, Pumpkinhead, and Mombi. The timeline goes back and forth from past to present without warning. Those who enjoy characterization will enjoy this novel(as with Son of a Witch). If you want a coherent plot, you may be in for frustration and disappointment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More answers are revealed in this book of the series. Although this was not my favorite book in the series, it seemed more interspective of all the books. The Lion tried to figure out just where his loyalties belonged and where he came from, Yackle, too, tried to remember her beginning, and everybody tried to figure out where the boy, Liir, had wound up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love all the books that gregory maguire writes but this one in particular i did not like. It was slow and hard to get into. I found it hard to follow as well. I kept reading to the end though, whether it wa my desire to find mething interesting or my drive to get it done amd over with, unfortunately i didnt fimd anything that parrticularly sparked my imaginaton except for maybe the part near the end with that twist about the cat and thebold lady whom i have plum forgotten her name. Maybe it was too political or too militaristic that made me not understand, whatever the case this was still my least fsvorite in the whole series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Despite my reading it right after finishing the first two volumes of the Wicked Years series it took me a while to get into this volume because the Lion's character seemed so amorphous. In the end however I found it very satisfying precisely because his character was so complex and not predictable. All the characters, in fact, are flawed--rather seriously at times--and that seems to be the heart of what Maguire is doing in the series. Their faults are distressing at times but allowed me to relate and develop sympathy for them. Although religious faith and doubt (or faith of some kind) plays an important role in the series, the author allows for all possibilities in how his characters approach or reject it and this volume in particular integrates that theme with the psychology of the characters' self-doubts and frustrations. As with the rest of the series, clever references to the original Oz series by Baum and to the 1939 movie sweeten the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoyed reading Gregory Maguire's Wicked and Son of a Witch, then you'll definitely love this book as well. The book tells the story of Oz once more, but this time through the eyes of the "cowardly Lion", Brrr. You go on his journey with him and, just like in Wicked, see how a title, and a perception of someone or, in his case, an Animal, doesn't really justify the way you think of them, considering you don't know their story and how they became the way that they are. Gregory Maguire did a wonderful job writting this novel, as he did with his others. The style of writting is superb, in the sense that he tells you just enough to get you to figure things out on your own and make your own interpretations concerning the story. It allows you to think and use your mind, which most books lack now a days. If you enjoyed any of his other books, then you'll love this one as well. Older readers will understand the novel more and fully grasp what is being conveyed, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to younger readers, as they may get confused throughout the story.
Quan-Kun More than 1 year ago
I initially was going to rate this book 3 stars, but the last few chapters definitely made this a 4 star read. There were moments where I grew weary of the Lion, but such is his character. There is meaning & hidden purpose in this book, and the characters of focus are a perfect match. The biggest plus for this installation into the wicked series is this: There IS closure! Some of the lingering questions from both "Wicked" as well as "Son of a Witch" are finally answered! This alone makes the book worth reading. The rest, is simply a bonus. I for one, am glad I gave it a chance, and I think lovers of the wicked series should as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved how this book kept OZ and its people alive!
sugarpy18 More than 1 year ago
If you read and liked Wicked and Son of the Witch, then you will definitely like this book. Just like the first two books, A Lion Among Men is sharply written, with interesting characters and a gripping plot. Not only do we find out the life story of the Lion who helped Dorothy kill the Wicked Witch, but we furthermore learn the story of Oz, the Witch, her son and other characters involved in their lives. Gregory Maguire's writing style is addictive, it was hard for me to put the book down.
anniebngreg More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this, although I wasn't as smitten as with WICKED, nor with SON of a WITCH. The prose is still wondrous and the imaginations of Mr Maguire are rich and full. I'm looking forward to the 4th in the Series, although not with as much eagerness as I sought #3. It's good to connect and read all three in the series in order, and I'm glad I did. It's just not as fine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good and interesting for the overall storyline, but in itself it had a lot of slow parts. It was a good story of the life of the Cowardly Lion but again was too dragged out.
WilV More than 1 year ago
Another great work from the wicked years. The character of Brr (cowardly Lion) was moving and his story compelling. The story follows this lonely misunderstood creature as he learns some of life's harder lessons and attempts to find his place in the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeenageCthulhu14 More than 1 year ago
This book was... not as good as Wicked. I was not fond of Son of a Witch, since I really do not enjoy Liir. The only reason I'm giving it 2 stars is because it resolved something at the end that I was wondering about (I won't say what it is in case someone who hasn't read this yet comes through to read reviews). You don't really need to read this one to read Out of Oz, though, unless you want only a tad more to know what's going on. But you don't necessarily HAVE to read this one. 
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