The Far West

Bk. 3. 378p. (Frontier Magic Series). Scholastic. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-03344-2.
Gr 7–10—In this third instalment in the series, Eff, who is working with Professor Torgeson and trying to keep the frontier safe from the mortally dangerous medusa lizards, is chosen to go on an expedition to the far West. This carries significant danger not only because of the medusa lizards, which, of course, turn living creatures to stone, but also because of other magical creatures as well. During this trip, Eff develops as a magician and learns to control her magic in new ways. With the same attention to character and setting as the previous entries, the pace in this alternate history/fantasy is measured and deliberate. A slight touch of romance between Eff and a couple of suitors leavens the narrative. There is an interesting mix of 19th-century formality with a relative equality for women, which makes Eff more of a contemporary character, notwithstanding her sense of decorum around men. Despite the numerous historical references-to Lincoln, slavery, and the Civil War-which place the story firmly in the 1800s, Wrede sticks with her curious choice of a frontier empty of indigenous human inhabitants, even south of the U.S. border. Quite apart from any other concerns, this results in a strange flatness in the picture she paints of the frontier, and the emptiness of the land echoes back into the story. Nonetheless, fans of the series will enjoy this novel.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City

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