We all know what happened when Dorothy arrived in the Land of Oz courtesy of a cyclone. She killed the Wicked Witch of the East and magically acquired her ruby slippers. Helped by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, she travelled to the Emerald City with three friends and asked the Wizard to send her back to Kansas. And of course, we know about her green enemy: The Wicked Witch of the West.

But do we really know the rest of the story? What DID happen in Oz before this little girl from Kansas carelessly ‘dropped’ in?

Wicked, is the story of the witches of Oz as imagined by Gregory Maguire. Familiar to many people these days through the hit West End musical of the same name, this novel is very different in tone to the musical with much more adult themes. It addresses politics, animal rights, outcasts, fate, friendships, and the philosophical question of what makes us bad: are people born wicked or do they become wicked purely by living up to people’s expectations of them?

Elphaba Thropp was born with an unfortunate colour skin tone and right from the start felt rejected like an outcast. She feels as if she has no place in the world but all that is set to change when she arrives at Shiz University. Here she meets her total opposite, Glinda, and despite an initial hatred of each other they do become best friends. But where will that friendship take them? They are destined to follow separate paths: one of good and one of evil. The Good Witch and The Wicked Witch.

It is how that happens and how they discover their true purpose and destiny that forms the heart of this immersive fantasy novel. Clearly Oz is not just for children.

 By Willow Coby