I wanted to like it I really did. I've had this book on my shelves for probably 10 years and never got round to reading it. A few years ago I went to see the musical and loved it. I knew the book would be very different - but damn. The musical really took the best bits of the book and added a few ideas of its own.
The problem that I have with this book is that it took a genuinely terrifying character and turned her into a sad old woman (she kept saying she was old, but she wasn't even 40). Cast out by her family because of her colour - unable to stand the touch of water. Used as a pawn in the power struggle for Oz. A failed witch tormented by her need for forgiveness by the wife of the only man she had ever loved - Fiyero. A man whose death she had caused by her campaign to save the Animals. A woman uanble to acknowledge her own son (unsure that she had even given birth to him). But determined to save the family of the man she had loved.
Parts of the story were incredibly crude. The ending felt rushed - more could have been made of the Wizard's realisation that Elphie was his daughter. Personally I was glad that the musical took up the theme of Fiyero becoming the Scarecrow. Also I didn't want to believe that the Witch was dead at the end.
It may sound odd, but the best part of the book for me was when the Witch finally got her hands on Madame Morrible (even if she was already dead).
Was she wicked? No, she became a victim of society, her sister was more wicked than she was - she just wanted to understand the world she lived in - to protect those that couldn't be protected and live her own life. Why wouldn't they let her?