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.