Across the Great Barrier

Patricia C. Wrede. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-545-03343-5
A sequel to Thirteenth Child, this adventure is set in an alternate 19th-century America where prehistoric mammals and dangerous magical creatures coexist. Eighteen-year-old Eff Rothmer is still getting used to the idea that she has managed to save a good part of the frontier from deadly magical mirror bugs. Unwilling to accompany her twin brother, Lan, to a university back east, she yearns to cross the Great Barrier Spell to the frontier. ("I didn't think the Settlement Office would hire a girl fresh out of upper school with no experience and no great knack for magic to be a circuit magician," she thinks.) Soon, however, Eff once again heads west as part of a scientific expedition, where she discovers bizarre phenomena and hitherto unknown creatures, some of which will put the settlers in deadly peril. Eff's narrative voice is warm and colloquial, and Wrede's descriptions of an imaginary American continent are taut and scrupulously detailed. Strong secondary characters, compelling use of magical elements, and a pensive portrayal of how serious scientists and magicians might ply their trade result in a layered historical fantasy. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/19/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
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