A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Yes, A Lion Among Men has them all!
This is the Cowardly Lion's story in a nutshell...and a few other nuts are de-shelled as well. Watching cowards in action is hard to stomach. We forever wish them to be brave, to show some sign of courage. But that is not the Lion's way. Following him on his cowardly journey through life is taxing.
On the other hand, if you're a superfan of Oz - the sort who's at least read the Baum originals if not all of the myriad fanfic out there - Maguire's re-imaginings of the Land of Oz can be enthralling. He gives one-dimensional characters two and even three dimensions. He turns the map of Oz into a living geography. It's interesting to see what he's done with the place!
If you're not hep to Maguire's take on Oz, here's a word of warning: He has a somewhat comic approach and his material is occasionally blue. It's not all potty talk, but expect a fuck or shit now and then, along with the occasional mention of sex in it's many forms. His infusion of reality into a fantasy world matures the source material. Sometimes it works, sometimes it misses the mark. It's not always easy to go from serious to ridiculous and back again.
If A Lion Among Men is said to miss its mark - as many critics complain - it's due to a lack of a truly engaging story. Again, I point to the coward issue. Sure, one can sympathize with the Lion and his unfortunate courage-sapping beginnings, but sympathy runs out eventually upon seeing someone constantly fleeing and abandoning obligations and friends.
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