Friday, February 1, 2013

Teen/YA Review: Across the Great Barrier

I enjoyed The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede so much that when I finished it, I immediately picked up the second book in the trilogy, Across the Great Barrier. I flew through it and loved it just as much as the first book. Wrede’s world of the Wild West with magic added in is fascinating and peopled by real, in-depth characters

In this second novel, Eff finishes high school and continues working for a professor at the Northern Plains Riverbank College in her town. Because of her experience the previous summer, she is asked to join a scientific expedition heading West, past the Great Barrier Spell, to further identify flora and fauna in the unexplored areas and check on regrowth after a devastating insect infestation in the settlements the previous year. Eff is thrilled to be heading back out into the wilderness, though her mother fears for her safety.

Meanwhile, Eff’s brother Lan (who is a seventh son of a seventh son and therefore a very powerful magician) and their best friend, William, continue their studies in magic in great eastern universities. Eff continues to be wary of her magical powers. She now knows that there is nothing inherently unlucky about being a thirteenth child, but she is still having trouble getting past the mental roadblocks that have been in place since early childhood.

Out West, Eff and the rest of the expedition discover things they’ve never even known could exist, struggle against obstacles (including saber cats and Columbian sphinxes), and try their best to help the settlements when unforeseen dangers crop up. As in the first book, Across the Great Barrier is filled with adventure and magic in the setting of the Wild West. Through the hardships and mysteries they encounter, Eff continues to grow not only physically but emotionally and magically as well, as she learns more about her own particular brand of magic and how to control it. It is an exciting, fast-paced story full of likable characters that I finished quickly. Now I am ready for book #3 – I can’t wait to see what happens to Eff and Lan next!

339 pages, Scholastic

NOTE: As with the first book in the series, Across the Great Barrier is marketed toward teens but is perfectly appropriate for older middle-grade readers as well, especially those who enjoyed the Little House and Harry Potter books!


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