Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book Review: The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede

The Far West
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Publication: Scholastic Press (August 1, 2012)

Description: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede, the fantastic conclusion to her tale of magic on the western frontier.

Eff is an unlucky thirteenth child...but also the seventh daughter in her family. Her twin brother, Lan, is a powerful double seventh son. Her life at the edge of the Great Barrier Spell is different from anyone else's that she knows.

When the government forms an expedition to map the Far West, Eff has the opportunity to travel farther than anyone in the world. With Lan, William, Professor Torgeson, Wash, and Professor Ochiba, Eff finds that nothing on the wild frontier is as they expected. There are strange findings in their research, a long prarie winter spent in too-close quarters, and more new species, magical and otherwise, dangerous and benign, than they ever expected to find. And then spring comes, and the explorers realize how tenuous life near the Great Barrier Spell may be if they don't find a way to stop a magical flood in a hurry. Eff's unique way of viewing magic has saved the settlers time and again, but this time all of Columbia is at stake if she should fail.

My Thoughts: The third and final novel in the Frontier Magic trilogy is the story of a journey both literally and figuratively. When the story begins, Eff Rothmer is twenty and working as an assistant to Professor Torgeson at the university in Mill City. Mill City is at Columbia's Western edge of civilization right up against the Great Barrier Spell, a magic spell concocted by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to keep magical creatures out of the East. But 83 years have passed and settlements have extended 100 miles west of the Great Barrier even though it is much more dangerous out there. 

A journey is being planned to explore further west - perhaps, all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Eff is excited about it but doesn't think she has any hope of going along. Her brother Lan who is a powerful magician and a double seven (seventh son of a seventh son) has been invited as has her brother-in-law Brant who was a hero of the previous successful McNeil Expedition. Also going is Roger Boden who is Eff's suitor, even though she turned down his proposal, and her best friend William Graham who is a student of magic. This expedition is being partially financed by the Cathayan government and their representative is Adept Alikaket. When she is asked to go along as an assistant to Professor Torgeson, she is excited, scared and eager but she also recognizes the danger. After all, the Lewis and Clark Expedition was lost when they tried to explore.

This story has excitement, adventure and even romance. Magic is woven into this story in many ways. Most people have the ability to do magic. It is taught in their schools. Eff does have problems with the most common form of magic - the Avrupan. Her spells have a tendency to go wrong. She has been studying the Aphrikan system of magic since she was young and using it to tweak her Avrupan spells. She is also eager to study the Cathayan system of magic while on this expedition. The expedition encounters many new creatures on their journey including many magical creatures like the Medusa lizards which can turn living creatures to stone, steam dragons and rock dragons, and large fox-like animals that can use magic to hide themselves from view.

One of the strengths of this story is the world building. Wrede has built a complex and consistent world where magic is well-integrated into a landscape the will be familiar to many people who live in the Midwest of the United States. This is not high fantasy but rather frontier fantasy. There are many parallels to the time of the Westward Expansion of the United States but tweaked, as Eff tweaks her magic, to allow for the smooth integration of magic.

Another strength of this story are the many, well-rounded characters who inhabit this world. From the bossy older sisters to the single-minded professors, the characters have depth and are all interesting. Eff is strong-minded, curious, adventurous and determined but also self-effacing and modest about her magical gifts. Her brother Lan is bright and magically talented but also impulsive and a little arrogant.

During this journey, Eff grows up, comes to terms with her own unique magical abilities, finds her life partner and her life's work. It is a great conclusion to a fascinating fantasy series. I strongly recommend reading the whole series - Thirteenth Child, Across the Great Barrier, and The Far West - to explore a very creative world and meet many fascinating people.

Favorite Quote:
"If you're looking to get clear answers, I'm not sure talking to Professor Ochiba will help," William said. "She's always making  me work things out for myself, even when I know she has the solution."
I bought this one as I do all books by Patricia C. Wrede. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. i didn't know this was out already! i really want to read this series!


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