A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Book 3)
Title: A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Book 3)
Author: Gregory Maguire
As civil war looms in Oz, Brrr, once a lion cub rescued by Elphaba, now a spy for the emperor, attempts to get vital information out of the dying oracle Yackle, only to learn important truths about his own mysterious past.
“Hardly more than a kitten . . . I had thought to call it Prrr, but it shivers more often than it purrs, so I call it Brrr instead.”
Since Wicked was first published in 1995, 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 much-anticipated third volume of the Wicked Years, we return to Oz, seen now through the eyes of the Cowardly Lion—the once tiny cub defended by Elphaba in Wicked.
While civil war looms in Oz, a tetchy oracle named Yackle prepares for death. Before her final hour, an enigmatic figure known as Brrr—the Cowardly Lion—arrives searching for information about Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West. As payment, Yackle, who hovered on the sidelines of Elphaba’s life, demands some answers of her own.
Brrr surrenders his story to the ailing maunt: Abandoned as a cub, his earliest memories are gluey hazes, and his path from infancy in the Great Gillikin Forest is no Yellow Brick Road. Seeking to redress an early mistake, he trudges through a swamp of ghosts, becomes implicated in a massacre of trolls, and falls in love with a forbidding Cat princess. In the wake of laws that oppress talking Animals, he avoids a jail sentence by agreeing to serve as a lackey to the war-mongering Emperor of Oz.
A Lion Among Men chronicles a battle of wits hastened by the Emerald City’s approaching armies. What does the Lion know of the whereabouts of the Witch’s boy, Liir? What can Yackle reveal about the auguries of the Clock of the Time Dragon? And what of the Grimmerie, the magic book that vanished as quickly as Elphaba? Is destiny ever arbitrary? Can those tarnished by infamy escape their sobriquets—cowardly, wicked, brainless, criminally earnest—to claim their own histories, to live honorably within their own skins before they’re skinned alive?
At once a portrait of a would-be survivor and a panoramic glimpse of a world gone shrill with war fever, Gregory Maguire’s new novel is written with the sympathy and power that have made his books contemporary classics.About the Author
Gregory Maguire is the bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years series, which 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 lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.
A Letter from Gregory Maguire
Here it is: volume three in my series coming to be known as The Wicked Years. I have had such warm reader response to Wicked and Son of a Witch, both initially and in the years since, that the thought of adding to the series made me feel—well, cowardly. I resisted for a while. But courage comes to those who wait, sometimes: so here is volume three.
A Lion Among Men follows the peripatetic career of the Cowardly Lion. First seen in Wicked as a lion cub culled from his pride for the purpose of laboratory experimentation, the Lion (known as Brrr) makes his name in that little Matter of Dorothy about which all of Oz is still talking. But one doesn’t necessarily become lion-hearted by going after public approval, by racking up those medals and titles and golden statuettes at award ceremonies.
Tarnished with scandal of every stripe, Brrr is loathed by the Animals who believe he betrayed them in helping Dorothy do in the Witch. He fares no better trying to live as a lion among men. When civil war breaks out in Oz, Brrr is caught in the line of fire as he interviews the mysterious old oracle, Yackle, about the sources of Elphaba’s power. He must choose how much approval he can live without. A bit player all his life, he may yet be the linchpin on which the prosecution of the war rests.
When I travel abroad (and the continuing success of the musical Wicked has brought me to countries where it is now playing), I am sometimes met with bemusement about the origins of the material—a children’s book made famous by a musical film for children!—how can this serve as a proper metaphor for a meditation about predestination and free will, about political opportunism and personal valor?
Maybe, I say, you have to be an American to see that a vaudeville comedian in baggy lion-pajamas, as Burt Lahr seemed to me, has just as much right to inspire a story about the education of a hero as any Siegfried or Lancelot or Joan of Arc.
And if they reply, You have some nerve!I answer Thank you. I hope so.
And I do thank you for your lion-hearted confidence in these wicked novels.