The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede
Series: Frontier Magic Trilogy #3
Genre: YA, alternate history, alternate reality, fantasy
Published on August 1, 2012
Published by Scholastic
Read From: 10.5.13 - 10.8.13
A journey into the unknown. . . .
The Far West, out beyond the settled territory, is a dangerous place. Eff knows this better than most - she's traveled past the Great Barrier Spell, seen steam dragons, fought a pride of saber cats, and killed a medusa lizard before it could turn her and her brother to stone.
But even though there are changes at home - new nieces and nephews, a wildlife study center for the college - Eff finds herself drawn to the Far West. The government is organizing the first expedition west in a decade, and Eff wants to go with her twin brother, Lan; her best friend, William; and her mentors, Professor Torgeson, Wash Morris, and Professor Ochiba. The group of scientists, army troops, and magicians will map unexplored land and discover new types of magical wildlife. Eff will learn more about her magic and ways of looking at the world than she could ever have guessed. And she'll need all her knowledge and strength to help take on a new threat from the West, one that could not just destroy the frontier but devastate the entire continent.
Characters: I still very much like the characters. Eff is a strong protagonist, who knows what she wants and doesn't have a chip on her shoulder. I love her relationship with her brother Lan, and that while he's the youngest of them, he takes on an older brother attitude, but Eff is constantly having to protect him from his own temper and rash decisions. She's a true frontier woman. But while all of the characters have a lot of personality, it's also hard to feel very connected to them, because the narration is so impersonal and matter-of-fact. We get plenty of Eff's emotions, but not a whole lot from anyone else, and there's very little dialogue for the other characters' personalities to show through.
The Romance: Like with the other two books, it's practically nil. Roger is sweet on Eff, but by the third book, the Reader will have a pretty good idea of what direction the romance is going to take. In other words, Roger's chances are not high, especially since Eff establishes in Book #2 that she doesn't have that sort of interest in Roger anyway. The romance was subtle and therefore didn't bother me at all.
Plot: Yet again, The Far West falls down where the other two did as well. Eff is going on another exploration expedition - this time, into the Far West. Territory that hasn't been touched in a decade; territory where strange creatures lurk and the Lewis and Clark Expedition was lost. Ever since the medusa lizards made an appearance in settled territory, scientists have been wanting to get out there and see what other strange and dangerous creatures might exist. The assistant of Professor Torgeson, it's only natural that Eff should be invited to join the expedition as well. Once more, there isn't much of a plot. There's not exploring, discovering, and natural dangers that rarely result in death or even injury. The Author seems adverse to the idea of killing anyone off (but is perfectly all right with killing ponies, I might note). There is more tremendous world building with all of the strange creatures, and we even learn more about this reality's history and the Cathayans. But by this point, I was actually getting a little tired of world building only and no plot. I love exploration stories, but usually things happen, like people dying, for instance, or ravaging diseases, or hard winters. There isn't much of that in this book, I'm afraid.
Believability: Not applicable.
Writing Style: First person, past tense. Eff is a great narrator, but unfortunately her narration continues to be very matter-of-fact and covers a lot of time in very few paragraphs. Therefore, we don't get a lot of dialogue or moment-by-moment scenes. It's all general information and a broad narration that encompasses important events and clumps together little events into one. There's not a lot of getting to know characters through interaction or anything like that. It's very impersonal.
Conclusion: As with the other two books, the excitement is at the end. Some great tragedy is about to befall the settlements as we know them, and the only way to stop it is with magical intervention. And because Eff is more special than she knows, she somehow manages to save the day without really knowing what she did, and the crisis is averted with no casualties or deaths, and everyone's a hero. Perhaps my rating for this book is a little generous. The characters are good and the world is very interesting and very well developed. But there simply isn't much of a plot, if any, and the end is very predictable, because we've seen it two different times already. And yet, there is still something about this trilogy - and this book in particular - that held my attention. I don't know what it is, but it did.
Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, fourteen-and-up, great for fans of historical fantasy.
Others in the Frontier Magic Trilogy:
2)Across the Great Barrier
3)The Far West