I think that the Oz books get easier with each release. Now watch, Out of Oz will take me two readings and pages of notes to understand. But Lion Among Men was a good read. It takes place nine years after the end of Son of a Witch, but we don’t interact with Liir, Candle or their child. However, several characters come into focus and one of them delights me!
So, the story opens in St. Glinda’s, where the Superior Maunt has been dead for many years and old Yackle is now blind and waiting for death. She is old and has always been old, but she can’t seem to die. The Emperor Apostle is still in power and trying to re-annex Munchinland into Greater Oz after his sister, Nessarose, ceded it all those years ago under the Wizard’s rule. The Lion, Brr, made a brief appearance in Wicked, during one of Elphaba’s Life Science classes at Shiz. Now he is one of the few Animals still working for the government. In fact, he is the token Animal in Oz and has been for many years, so that people can point and say, “See, Animals are doing fine.”
I should warn you, I did not take notes in chronological order. I took notes regarding each character’s life. So we have the Lion as he travels through Oz and seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is used for other people’s purposes and can’t seem to remember his early life as a cub. Through him, we also see more of Dorothy during her time in Oz. She comes off as a whiny brat who sees herself as a superior to the citizens of Oz. But, she does ask the Lion to take for Liir, since both he and the Lion are orphans. And this will be echoed by Yackle, who will ask the Lion to care for Liir’s daughter. At the end of the book, he begins to take on this task. But he has to finish his first task of taking Yackle’s deposition, because the ruling regime hopes to find the Grimmerie.
The more interesting character (to me) is Yackle, who has lived on the outside edges of Elphaba’s life. She asks Brr for information about Liir and Candle, hoping to find information about the child. You discover much of her story as she watches over Elphaba, but doesn’t actively participate in the Witch’s life. But Yackle, like Brr, wants to know where she came from. She was born old and can’t remember when her life began exactly. But she wants to, so that she can return and be done with life. This is where she crosses with the Dwarf and the Great Time Dragon (from Wicked, remember?). The Time Dragon has been making its way towards St. Glinda’s, with the Dwarf and the elves that care for it, plus one more. A woman also travels with the Time Dragon, rescued from a tower by its head. A woman who was a prison escapee and a spy and now doesn’t know what to do with herself. The reader has finally caught up with Nor, the daughter of Fiyero and Yackle and Brr remind her that she still has family, that Liir has been searching for her.
The Great Time Dragon plays a big role at the end of the book. See, Brr has been carrying around a passenger, Shadowpuppet, a small white cat. I don’t know if anyone remembers Elphaba’s first pet, in the loft with Fiyero, Malky? But the Time Dragon begins to unfold and reveals that Malky is a Cat who can talk and is the spy that lead to Fiyero’s death. The Dragon also shows that Yackle was created by a true Wizard out of the Grimmerie and she can only leave life by returning to the book, which she eventually does, taking the traitorous Malky with her.
I think that Lion Among Men was more about filling in a few holes and tying up a few loose ends that Wicked left behind, because it seems to deal with those events more than what happened in Son of a Witch. You read about Yackle, what happened to the Lion after Shiz and before Dorothy, where the Grimmerie has gone and how Fiyero and Elphaba were found. There were some holdovers from Son of a Witch, such as the Emperor Apostle, the continuing search for the Grimmerie, and what happened to Nor. But Lion Among Men smoothly tied the three books together.
And now, Out of Oz needs to finish it.