Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Review: The Far West

The bad thing about reviewing a series and reviewing all of the books so close together is that I run out of things to say to introduce it! So, here is the last book in Wrede's frontier magic series and as always, don't read unless you haven't read the other books first (for once it's not for spoilerly reasons however, it just defeats the purpose of the series!).

The Far West by Patricia C Wrede

After having gone far west of the Great Boundary Spell where the world is strange and wild, Eff is sure that is what she wants to do with her life and continues to work with the local college and their studies of the far west. So when the federal government decides to have their first expedition west in decades it's no surprise to anyone but her that she's asked to be an assistant. There are plenty of reasons not to go but she feels pulled yet again by the world's strangeness and joins her brother and old friends on the trip.

Structurally, tonally, and thematically this book is very similar to its predecessors so I'm going to keep this review do that it doesn't turn into a rehash of those reviews. Like the other two books, I like how the story isn't about Eff saving the world or doing something big and flashy but I did expect a bigger payoff in this book for the series as a whole. Following the structure of the other two books, a major conflict does appear in the last third and all the characters must work hard to prevent disaster but there was never a conflict like that for the entire series and I felt like it could have used it. Not necessarily for the plot but for the resulting character development, this is one of the cases where having a low key story was too true to life and it felt like the characters hadn't changed at all and some if them, Lan and Eff especially, did have some problems which had been noted in earlier books. 

On a related note, the fate of all the characters felt very natural and foreshadowed but in Eff's case it felt unearned. Aside from dealing with her own feelings about her magic, which is clearly going to be a life long thing for her, we've never seen her have to fight for anything in her life and even a calm person has to do that every now and then. I felt like her passion for natural science was more told than shown, it was as if she became interested in natural science because it was something nearby and if she had lived anywhere else this huge, defining part of her life would have been totally different. I actually felt a bit jealous, seeing how it was in a way very easy for her to follow her interests felt more boring than satisfying. And I think that's why I just haven't heard as much buzz about this series even though I keep seeing people talk about Wrede's Dealing With Dragons (and sequels) every now and then and that series is over a decade older. This series just lacked the emotional hook and payoff to make it memorable and, while it's not bad, it's not at the top if my recommendation list either. 

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