Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teen/YA Review: The Far West

After years of my son urging me to read Patricia C. Wrede’s Frontier Magic trilogy, I finally read TheThirteenth Child and Across theGreat Barrier in quick succession. He was right! It’s an excellent series that crosses the Old West with magic. I recently finished the final book of the trilogy, The Far West, and found it just as good and a fitting end to a great series.

For those who haven’t read the first two books yet, I will avoid any spoilers. The author does a good job of filling in essential information for new readers, but I would still recommend reading the series from the beginning. The story focuses on Eff who is now a young woman and finished with her schooling. Eff loves the wilderness west of the Great Barrier Spell, which keeps out dangerous wildlife – both magical like swarming weasels and Medusa lizards as well as nonmagical species. She has already made several trips out there in the previous novels, as an assistant to the professors of the local college.

Eff gets another chance to head out west at the start of this novel as part of a government-sponsored expedition, but this trip will be even more dangerous than previous ones because they’ll be attempting to travel further west than anyone has ever gone (and returned from). Her family is not happy with this plan, but Eff knows that this is what she wants to do with her life. Traveling with a large group of scientists, magicians, and soldiers, Eff encounters new and dangerous wildlife, learns more about her own unique kind of magic, and discovers more about herself. When the team encounters something that could threaten the entire continent, they will need all of their skills – including Eff’s – in order to avert disaster.

This series succeeds on so many different levels. Wrede has created an intriguing fantasy world, populated by strange and wondrous creatures and talented magicians, but the novel is also set against the fascinating backdrop of the pioneer West in a U.S. that is quite similar – though with subtle differences – to our own history. Finally, it is populated by in-depth characters whose lives you come to care about, and is a coming-of-age story of young Eff, as the series follows her from a small child to a grown woman who knows what she wants from her life. All of these elements are wrapped together in an exciting, fast-paced adventure story.

378 pages, Scholastic

NOTE: If, like me, you are fascinated about where the action in the Frontier Magic trilogy takes place relative to our own version of the nation, click on this link and scroll down to the bottom for two maps of North Columbia and the Mill City area.

In this brief video, Wrede talks about why she loves writing, with references to her Enchanted Forest series:


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