Across the Great Barrier: A Little Plodding, But A Nice Plot Anyway

Across the Great Barrier is written by Patricia C. Wrede. It is the second book in the Frontier Magic series. It was published in 2011 by Scholastic. Wrede’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Eff could be a powerful magician if she wanted to. Except she’s not sure she wants that kind of responsibility. Everyone keeps waiting for her to do something amazing—or to fail in a spectacular way. Worse, her twin brother, Lan, a powerful double seventh son, is jealous of all the attention she’s been getting.

Even as Eff protests that she’s just an ordinary girl, she’s asked to travel past the Barrier Spell with one of the new professors at her father’s school. The land west of the Barrier is full of dangers, both magical and wild. Eff will need to use all her strength—magical and otherwise—to come safely back home.”

What I Liked:

Wrede has a knack for making day-to-day living interesting rather than boring, and each day in Eff’s life is peeling back another layer of her character. I absolutely loved her extremely nonchalant “Got it” at the very end, as if she hadn’t just done something incredibly amazing.

I loved the main plot of this book. It was set-up nicely, vaguely unsettling, and even hinted at what the next book will entail. I loved Lan’s turnaround, especially since I was getting annoyed with him, but I felt sorry for the way his turnaround happened. Unfortunately, sometimes things like that are the only way for people to realize certain things about themselves.

I’m glad to see that Wrede isn’t making this part romance novel, as so much YA is. While I’m still holding out for Eff and William, and I guess I’ll have to wait for the third book, the romance probably won’t be very pronounced there, either. And I like the fact that Eff’s development is focused on her magic and what she finds out about the wild and her pendant, and only slightly centered on romance.

I’m anxious to see what happens with Rennie and the Rationalist settlement. Nothing bad, I hope…

What I Didn’t Like:

The book can plod a bit, and while Wrede makes it interesting, it still has that draggy feel to it. The part where Eff is back from her trip before she goes East is probably the worst. The way Wrede writes these books is very plodding, too, although most of the time it can be ignored.

I thought Eff was being so stupid when she kept blabbing to Professor Lefevre about the animals! Seriously, Eff, don’t you know that you never give important information to people you don’t know? I mean, in this case it turned out to be okay, but then I felt it was odd that this conversation, which was basically a repeat of what we already found out earlier, was in the book if it wasn’t significant. Maybe this was just more plodding.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None (well, the stone animals are a little creepy).

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

When we got back to Bejmar, we had to go over the whole business one more time for the settlement magician. “Thank you,” he said when we finished. “Both for the warning and the help.” He shook his head tiredly. “I’d hoped that with so much forage and cover gone, we’d have a year or two before the big predators came back, but it seems not. Though the smaller wildlife aren’t much better.”

“Those cats shouldn’t have been there at all,” one of the men who’d come with us burst out. “They were starving, all of them; since when does a starving animal come to a place where there’s no food?”

~Wrede 108-109

Resting in the palm of her hand was one of the grayish white rocks like the ones we’d used to line the firepit—only this one was about two inches long and the exact shape and size of a squirrel’s front paw and forearm. If you looked close, you could even see where two of the claws had broken off.

“Huh,” Champ said after a moment. “Looks like somebody’s been here before us. So?”

“How could that be?” I said. “Nobody’d come all the way out here and bury a broken statue in the middle of a big old hill, especially one that’s been around long enough to grow tress all over it. I don’t see how anyone could do that.”

~Wrede 173

Overall Review:

Across the Great Barrier continues the great mix-up of Western/fantasy, with Eff as the still-developing, quiet, awesome protagonist. While the worldbuilding and the magic system are quite complex, the book plods in places due to the “everything is important” narration-style and often repetitive elements. The stone animals, though, are suitably creepy and a great segue into the main plot.

You can buy this here: Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic)

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