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The Far West (Frontier Magic Book 3) Kindle Edition
|Length: 389 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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|Age Level: 12 - 18|
|Grade Level: 7 - 12|
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This is a great finish to Wrede's series about Eff that happens in a reimagined late 1800s US West. Eff has gradually progressed in her self-acceptance and magic throughout the series, and comes to a solid, healthy place in this book at last. She was in a good spot in the last book, but this one deals with the last traces of doubt and hurt she has nagging her. The magical theories Wrede spins in this book are fascinating...at least to me. I can see how some may not like all the details that it goes into, but if that's the case you probably bailed on the series a book or two ago. This book feels like it really has two or three separate parts. There's the first half about research on the medusa lizard and the Adept's visit. And then there's the expedition section which is a journey/adventure in which we get to meet all sorts of strange new magical creatures. And in between there's more on Eff's family and romantic life. It isn't super fast paced, but I really enjoyed the book. Patricia Wrede's imagination is a thing of wonder. There's enough opening in the conclusion that if she got inspired, Wrede could add on to the series in the future, but it is satisfactorily concluded that I'd be ok with her stopping here (though I really hope she gets inspired).
Notes on content: No language issues. No sexual content. (It is mentioned that as the expedition goes on some of the men start to make more advances, but it doesn't go into any kind of detail what that means.) There are some human-animal encounters that go a bit badly. Some injuries are described, mostly it is just mentioned that someone is burned or didn't make it. No gory details.
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.
The characters develop nicely, building on what has happened in previous books and moving forward to their individual destinies, and we have the introduction of some new and interesting ones. The different types of magic are very well portrayed, as well as Eff's own exploration of her abilities and special viewpoint. Eff also has to make some very serious choices about her future. Lan, William, Wash, Professors Torgeson and Ochiba are very much present and facing serious decisions and situations. New crisis and new creatures abound. And the conclusion wraps up very neatly, settling some old questions while creating new possibilities. While the book nicely wraps up things for the various characters, there is definitely room for more exploration beyond the "Far West".