Book Review: The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede

5 Jan

I wasn’t expecting to finish this book today, but when nap times run longer than expected, miracles can happen. 😉

The Far West is the third book in the Frontier Magic series by Patricia C. Wrede. Like all of Wrede’s books, it’s fraught with gorgeous descriptions, a well-made world, characters with distinguishable speech and  basically downright gorgeous writing. From a writer’s perspective, I can’t help but admire Wrede’s work, and would often turn to her books when creative writing professors told me to work on this or that, so that I could have an example of what I wanted to do in front of me.

Frontier Magic is a great tale, too. Set in an alternate-universe America that had just gotten through the Secession War, it features Eff, the unlucky thirteenth child of a family that moves out west, close to the Great Barrier. The Barrier is situated on what we would call the Mississippi River, and it’s the furthest that’s particularly safe to settle.

On the other side of the Barrier, magic abounds–steam dragons, mirror bugs, medusa lizards, among others. It’s a wild west that goes beyond what we know in America today.

Yet in The Far West, Eff and her brother Lan set out with an expedition to venture farther west than anyone had ever been before. With more and more medusa lizards and other species pressing in on the settlements beyond the Great Barrier, more knowledge about what lies out by the rocky mountains is imperative if the settlements are going to survive. Eff faces dangers hitherto unknown and practices the magic that once scared her–and good thing too, as it might just save Eastern Columbia from the wildlife she finds out west!

An exciting story, great writing–but that said, I don’t think that Frontier Magic is for everyone. The first book, The Thirteenth Child, was (from what I remember–I read it before it was released in 2009) fantastic. I can’t think of a complaint. The second book, Across the Great Barrier, was a bit slower-paced. I won’t say boring, because it wasn’t–it was quite interesting, but for readers looking for a fast-paced adventure, I don’t think the second book was it. I was hoping for a bit more in the third book, and for the most part, it delivered.

However, I do think that the first half of the book went altogether too slow, while the second half seemed to be over in an instant. One thing about these books is that they tend to cover a great deal of time, something that might be confusing for some readers. The second half of this book covered just under two years. The first half covered less than that. I didn’t think that the first half was all that necessary, and I would have liked to see more of the second half–and more of the Far West. More interactions with the other characters, particularly where the romance aspect was concerned, as the result of that threw me for a bit of a loop at the end. More creatures, more plants and animals, going into whether or not the Far West could ever be settled, more mysterious magical pendant (which I don’t think was ever solved… for some reason I was thinking this is a trilogy, in which case that would be a problem, but that isn’t indicated, so perhaps there will be another book expanding on that). And why exactly did Alikaket want that mammoth, anyway??

Throughout the series I’ve also struggled to understand the magic–which, quite honestly, I think means that it’s just well developed. I haven’t reread these books, though I plan to, and I’ll be paying more attention to the magic structures on my second read. And perhaps part of my problem was that I hadn’t reread the second book since it came out, either, and magic obviously wasn’t re-explained. But I thought I would mention it as something to watch for.

Overall, though, this book lived up to my expectations. I hope to see more in the Frontier Magic series, as I love Patricia C. Wrede’s writing style and the concept of a magical America.

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One Response to “Book Review: The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede”

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  1. 2013: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 26, 2013

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