The Far West: It’s Like The Oregon Trail But With Dragons

The Far West is written by Patricia C. Wrede. It is the third and final book in the Frontier Magic trilogy. It was published in 2012 by Scholastic. Wrede’s website can be found here.


“The Far West, out beyond the settled territory, is a dangerous place. Eff knows this better than most—she’s traveled past the Great Barrier Spell, seen steam dragons, fought a pride of saber cats, and killed a medusa lizard before it could turn her and her brother to stone.

But even though there are changes at home—new nieces and nephews, a wildlife study center for the college—Eff finds herself drawn to the Far West. The government is organizing the first expedition west in a decade, and Eff wants to go with her twin brother, Lan; her best friend, William; and her mentors, Professor Torgeson, Wash Morris, and Professor Ochiba. The group of scientists, army troops, and magicians will map unexplored land and discover new types of magical wildlife. Eff will learn more about her magic and ways of looking at the world than she could ever have guessed. And she’ll need all her knowledge and strength to help take on a new threat from the West, one that could not just destroy the frontier but devastate the entire continent.”

What I Liked:

This book was an awesome culmination of everything Eff has learned over the last two books being used to counter a threat that I must say I didn’t see coming. I definitely thought that the dangers of this book would be more wildlife-based, especially considering the pattern of the last two, but while there was wildlife danger, the Big Danger was not. And it led to Eff doing some pretty cool things that everyone was shocked about, obligatorily but yet still awesomely.

Remember what I said in my review of Thirteenth Child where I thought this would be a “misunderstood creatures” type of plot? Well, thank goodness I was wrong! I don’t think I would have enjoyed this series nearly as much if that was the resolution, but the trilogy was focused more on magic than on the wildlife, and in the end the wildlife was just wildlife. And pretty cool (and scary) wildlife, at that.

William! Yes! I knew it! I mean, it was pretty obvious, but still! His jealous moments were hilarious, Eff’s obliviousness was hilarious, and overall the romance was very subtle, not sappy, and very sweet.

This is a very Man vs. Nature (or in this case, Man vs. Magic) book, which is appropriate for the Wild West, Western expansion feel of it. I still love that meld, by the way. I wish more authors did it.

Loved the little bits and pieces of alternate history thrown in. Even though it’s not prominent, Wrede did a lot of work with her worldbuilding.

I gushed about Eff’s character-type in Thirteenth Child, and let me just point out this gem of a reply that I absolutely loved: “Of all the nerve! What, you think that just because I’m going on the expedition, I’ll turn into some kind of tart?” Thank you, Eff. Thank you.

What I Didn’t Like:

I still don’t really like that the series never had a human villain. Again, this is a Man vs. Nature book (and series), not a Man vs. Man book, but some sort of human obstacle would have been nice to see.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Scary images.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult


There was a brief, stunned silence. “Absorbing magic?” Professor Torgeson said finally, half to herself. “How is that possible? The thing is dead.”

“I don’t know,” Professor Ochiba said. “But every time a spell touches it, it soaks up the magic and converts it directly into more spell-resistance.”

“No wonder no one’s been able to get the evaluation spells to work,” Professor Jeffries commented.

Professor Ochiba nodded. “And if people have been trying to evaluate this creature magically, I’m surprised your preservation spells haven’t failed already.”

~Wrede 51

Slowly, I started the concentration exercise Professor Ochiba had taught me back in day school. When I was calm and centered, I let my world-sensing go just a little, just enough to feel the pendant and the layers of spells around it.

Before, I’d always studied the pendant as a whole thing, partly because that was the way I thought of it and partly because that was the way Aphrikan magic looked at most things. But the pendant and the spells weren’t just one thing. Nothing ever was, really.

What other things is this? I thought, and started a mental list of everything I could think of. The pendant was an ornament, a necklace. It was an Aphrikan teaching tool—I knew that from what Wash had told me. It was a physical thing (the robin’s egg whorl of wood) plus a bunch of magic things (the spells that wrapped it). I paused and considered on that for a minute. A bunch of spells—not just one layer wrapped around a core, but lots of layers, like an onion.

~Wrede 199-200

Overall Review:

The Far West is a great finish to the trilogy, and Eff does even more awesome things. It’s still a bit plodding, but if you can get through the first two books this one should be no problem. Love the complex magic system Wrede explains throughout the trilogy, and although I wish there was a human villain, the nature threat is pretty unique and the exploration aspect is the best part of the book.

You can buy this here: The Far West (Frontier Magic)

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