Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: Across the Great Barrier

Title: Across the Great Barrier
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 1, 2011)
Rating: 9/10
Source: library

Eff is an unlucky thirteenth child - her twin brother, Lan, is a powerful seventh son of a seventh son. And yet, Eff is the one who saved the day for the settlements west of the Great Barrier. Her unique ways of doing magic and seeing the world, and her fascination with the magical creatures and land in the Great Plains push Eff to work toward joining an expedition heading west. But things are changing on the frontier.

There are new professors of magic for Eff and Lan to learn to work with. There's tension between William and his father. And there are new threats on the frontier and at home. To help, Eff must travel beyond the Barrier, and come to terms with her magical abilities--and those of her brother, to stop the newest threat encroaching on the settlers.

With wit, magic, and a touch of good pioneer sense, Patricia C. Wrede weaves a fantastic tale of the very wild west.

Oh, Patricia C. Wrede, I will follow you wherever you go. I first fell for her when I was a tiny-Karen, through her Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which are clever and slyly funny. Then she released a series of books with magicians in Regency England which were written in an epistolary format - three things I adore! So when she started a new series set back in frontier times, with a magical wildness added to the traditional wilderness of the Western frontier, I was willing to follow her even though she had ventured far from my normal style. And I was of course, well rewarded.

This is the second in her Frontier Magic series, and it is even better than the first (Thirteenth Child). Eff is a smart, stubborn, and wonderfully independent young heroine whose adventures in learning magic and finding a place for herself in the difficult world of the Western frontier will keep you riveted. Her family, friends and colleagues are all realistic and the problems in Eff's life, magic and mundane both, draw you in.

The world-building is so unique - there are magical plants and creatures, magical universities that teach the three main branches of magic (European, Asian and African), and a settlement office that requires that every new settlement group must have a magician to travel with them to help keep them safe. There is also, of course, a group called "Rationalists" who shun the use of magic and try to create communities free from its use.

This isn't your average YA fantasy - this is a world created by Patricia C. Wrede. Like Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley, she is one of the pillars of my fantasy reading and I will always always pick up her books - and I haven't been disappointed yet.

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