Moving right along with this series (since the sooner I write a proper review of it the sooner I can write the next book, I've found if I don't I risk muddling the stories together and write overall less satisfying reviews) so there's not much to say to introduce it, it's magic, the Wild West, and not in the way you just thought when you heard those two phrases put together!
Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C Wrede
Eff is now a bit of a folk hero after helping save the settlements beyond the Great Barrier from the mirror bugs but, like many a hero, all the attention is making her uncomfortable. However there is one thing that has come from all of this that she is happy about, people are finally curious again about what lies on the other side of their great, magical wall and expeditions are being organized to study the wildlife and foliage. Eff has a chance to come along on some of these trips and the more they study the more and less sense their world seems to make.
I was a bit surprised when I realized that Lan, Eff's twin brother, hasn't gotten any real development by the end of this book. He's a rather prominent side character and has certainly gotten enough screen time to at least start going through a character arc, but by the end of this book he still feels strangely reserved in some ways, as if Wrede is hiding something about his character from the cast and the audience.
While our Native American equivalent still seems to be missing (I could understand if one just doesn't exist, given the extreme wildlife, but if that's the case then it really needs to be stated somewhere) I was happy that the story touches on how the Civil War went down in this universe and introduces some characters who helped run their Underground Railroad. The story also shows an even larger variety of mindsets (in regards to characters living out in the wild west) and it made me appreciate even more how much thought Wrede has put into the setting to make it work.
However, I still have no clue where this series is going. Is it going to just be a series of standalone novels, each slightly further into Eff's life but with no plot or thematic connection between them? Or will Eff (and Lan) do some great magical working at the end of the series to tie everything up and this has all been build up to that? I'm really not sure, series of stand alone novels are fairly rare in YA actually (Hilary Bell's Knight and Rouge series is the only other one I can think of that comes close to it), I always thought that publishers didn't want to take that kind of risk, but I suppose this could just be one of them. Her Enchanted Chocolate Pot series was also more of a series of standalone novels than anything else but the tone of those books was just different enough that it worked. Here, while I really do enjoy these books something just feels off, as if it's lacking a sense of urgency to tie everything together and it does bother me a bit.