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Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic) Hardcover – Aug 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545033438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545033435
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,382,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From New York Times #1 bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede, the second in the series of magic on the western frontier. Eff is riding west, away from the safety of the frontier city she's always known.... 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. With wit, magic, and a touch of good pioneer sense, Patricia C. Wrede once again weaves a fantastic tale of the very wild west.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed all three of the books in this series. These are very real people - they have disagreements at times, there are consequences to decisions made, and I found myself caring about them all.

I have seen people complain that in this version of North America there seem to be no native Americans/Columbians. But this seems logical to me, as they too arrived as small groups of incomers - just many years before the European/Avrupan settlers - and would almost certainly have died out when facing steam dragons, basilisks, stone dragons and so on, as it is unlikely that they would have had suitable weapons, or such sophisticated magic, if they arrived on the continent at much the same period as their equivalents in our version of this world, i.e. 40000 – 10000 BC. Therefore I had no problem with their absence.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Loki on 11 Oct. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Frontier America with magic doesn't sound as good as this series is. The world building is first rate, with believable creatures, families and even governments. Some of the charm of this book is in the way it's a bit episodic, not a compact coming of age book like the first one of the series. This gives it the quality of a real autobiography of the period, and leaves me waiting impatiently for the next book, and the next look at the odd sect who refuse to use any magic and the joy in exploring a new and magical continent.
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Format: Kindle Edition
More travels and experiences of Eff and Lan as they discover more about themselves and their magic. Characters that are real, familiar and inspiring despite being magicians!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great finish to the series. I hope she writes more of this world, even if she writes about other characters, though I loved these ones.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 60 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Just came, just read it! 28 July 2011
By Deborah Rimmer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't read through a full book in one sitting in years but this one I couldn't put down. You've probably read "Thirteenth Child" so you know the setting for this book. Eff is the center of the story here and she has grown much more self confident from her younger years. She is not a "kick ass" heroine as is so popular in much modern fantasy, just a young woman trying to figure out what it is she wants to do with her life.
Her very talented twin brother Lan is away at school for most of the book but comes home to recover from a tragic accident that shakes his self confidence. Their friend William is present only in the letters he writes to Eff.
As the title suggests, Eff crosses the Great Barrier, twice, to learn more about the very wild West. The land has its own ecology that is reasonably logical within the premise of both magical and non-magical plants and animals. And you will meet the animal that would scare an ice dragon (the one that Wash saw flying as fast as it could away from the mountains in "Thirteenth Child").
The story is low key, well told, and the people are believable. If you like this kind of story telling you will really enjoy this book.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Courtesy of The Figment Review at Figment[dot]com 12 Aug. 2011
By The Figment Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
by Bridget

Historically, the life of a pioneer was one of great danger, even without woolly mammoths and steam dragons to contend with. The world of Patricia C. Wrede's Frontier Magic series brings all manner of treacherous creatures and magical phenomena to the western frontier of an alternate United States.

The story is set in the United States of "Columbia" where three schools of magic (Avrupan, Aphrikan, and Hijero-Cathayan) are practiced. Beyond the inudion of magic, there are other delightfully quirky touches to Wrede's alternate history, such as the northern country of Vinland, settled permanently by pre-Columbian Vikings.

The second book in a series, Across the Great Barrier connects directly to its prequel, Thirteenth Child. The protagonist, Eff Rothmer, begins her first-person narration where the previous story finished. Whereas Thirteenth Child covers most of Eff's childhood into her young adulthood, Across the Great Barrier takes place across only a few years. When Eff finishes upper school, she embarks on a new adventure on the other side of the Mammoth (Mississippi) River as an assistant to a Vinlander, Professor Torgeson.

Eff is a very aware narrator, partly from her naturalist's eye and partly from the world-sensing magic she uses to survey the magical nuances of her environment. She is perceptive, which ensures that the strange wildlife and social tensions of Wrede's unique world are sufficiently described. Eff is also introspective, allowing readers to solve the plot's mysteries as she does. Her seriousness does not interfere with her humor and stubborn charm, and she makes for an immensely likable protagonist.

Romantic prospects are scarce for Eff, even though she turns twenty towards the end of the book. This is not as disappointing as it might seem since the story is centered on her personal quest of self-definition and fulfillment. Still, there is room for the hope that she may yet fall in love.

The second book in a trilogy can easily suffer from a lack of self-contained plot and serve only as a segue between the first and third books. Across the Great Barrier has its own story arc, but a few new secondary characters seem designed for plot points not reached within the book. Vivid dream sections, which are often frustratingly irrelevant or obvious in many narratives, narrowly avoid this fate due to Eff's deliberate analysis. The dreams hint at a larger storyline connected to the mysterious magic pendant Eff wears, but it is mostly unaddressed within the novel. The mysteries of the untraveled territory also leave plenty unresolved for the third book, The Far West, release date to be announced.

Across the Great Barrier is a worthwhile read for those who appreciate creative history, imaginative magic, and sensible heroines. The Wild West has never been quite so wild, nor has it ever been quite so enchantingly magical.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Little Magician in the Great (dead) Woods 6 Aug. 2011
By George Ferguson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the sequel to Thirteenth Child, and starts immediately after, although the events are synopsized for the firstseveral months immediately after. Lan and William go back east to prep school, and Eff continues her schooling the the Mill City public school, with a new .magic teacher (since Miss Ochiba got that Professorship at Triskelion University). Because she missed a year due to illness, as chronicled in the first book, Eff is a year behind her twin, and has two years to go to his (and William's) one. The first part of the book follows Eff through those two years, skimming over large parts, to get her to the last part of her senior year, where she finds she needs to decide what she wants to do with her life after she finishes public school. She decides to, at least for the next few years, work at the university animal collection (zoo), which she has been doing voluntarily while she was in school.

Other reviewers have commented on her adventures as a budding naturalist, I'd like to focus more on the world-building. The world of the Frontier Magic books, as introduced in the first book, established that magic was pervasive, that those wandering siberian tribes had never crossed over to the new world, that Arvrupan (European) settlers had started settlements in the New World in about the same time frame as they did in our world, naming the new continents Columbia (implying that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in this world also). We also knew, from the first book that Gaulish (French), the Albionese (English), and the Lowlanders (Dutch) had established colonies, and that Aphrikaans (Africans) had been brought over as slaves.

This book fills in more detail. The biology professor who takes on Eff as her assistant is a Vinlander, from the island colonies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (the St. Lawrence River has the same name in the books) that had been established by Scandian over 500 years earlier. These islands presumably include the major islands of the gulf, Newfoundland, Anticosti, Prince Edward, the Magdalene group. We learn that there is a Gaulish land south of Vinland and north of the Great Lakes, named Acadia. there are settlements in South Columbia (South America) that are primarly Aphrikaan (it's not discussed whether they were originally settled direct from Aphrika, were settled from freed or escaped slaves).

The Great Barrier spell was established in the first book as created by Washington and Franklin in the very late 18th century, and current magicians don't know how to replicate it (Eff notes that it uses all three major forms of magic). Its path is laid out here, it starts where the Mammoth River drains into the Gulf of Amerigo at New Orleans, and travels up, and is fueled by, the Mammoth River almost to its headwaters. The spell leaves the Mammoth at its closest approach to Lake Superior and crosses about 100 miles of land (called 'the weak point') to the westernmost point of the lake, and then travels through the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence to the ocean. Therefore, all the U.S. (and only the U.S.)shielded by it.

While Eff is not a powerful magician like her brother, she is fairly unique in that when she uses magic, she usually uses all three forms, Hijayan-Cathayan (Arabic-Chinese), Aphrikaan (African), and Avrupan (European). That may be why she has influence outside her actual power level (she isn't weak, but she tends to be around magicians who are Very powerful, includomg father and her twin brother).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Little House on the Prairie meets Harry Potter 2 Sept. 2011
By April M. Steenburgh - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Eff is a Thirteenth Child, and while she has more or less overcome the assumption she is an avatar of misfortune as a result, she is still working at smoothing out her magical talents. As she finishes up her schooling as a child her brother Lan, a fortuitous seventh son of a seventh son, urges her to consider higher schooling in the east. But Eff's attention turns ever westward, to the wild lands beyond the barrier. She takes on a position as assistant to the menagerie attached to the school she just graduated from, and from there, is brought along on a survey expedition through the lands unprotected by the barrier. As the survey stumbles upon magical animals in places they should not be as well as a puzzling collection of what look to be petrified animals, Lan's schooling comes to a stop in a horrifying tragedy.

<strong>Across the Great Barrier</strong> is the second book in the Frontier Magic series, and is a fascinating mix of <strong>Little House on the Prairie</strong> and Harry Potter. I am particularly fond of magic being used for mundane things, so the way Wrede has written magic being utilized by folks trying to make their way on the frontier pulled in my attention, and the edge of danger that life style and the world Wrede has build with its steam dragons, mirror bugs, and Columbian Sphinxes kept me frantically turning pages long past when I should have been sleeping. Beyond that, everything I can ever remember enjoying about being a child is represented, in some way, in these books. The little experiences and triumphs, even the flat failures and disappointments- things I can, as an adult look back at with a crooked grin. These are books shelved in the children's section, but are by no means books just for kids.

Enjoyable, fun, highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When can I get the next one? 7 Aug. 2011
By Random Texas Ferret - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
As is fairly typical of "Second Books", this one feels transitional, but that does not mean nothing happens, or that it isn't well worth reading. For a person who spent so much time dwelling on her inner nature and the possibility of "going to the bad" as a child, Eff is remarkably unaware of herself. This strikes me as very realistic, based on recollections of my own teen years. Things just happen to, and around, Eff, and she spends a lot of time trying to figure out what just went on, without quite realizing the impact she might be having on events. Watching her learn to think analytically ("That is one way of looking at the situation. There are others.") is a treat, and the contrasts between the schools of magical thought are fascinating. I've read it twice already, and it held up just as well to the more detailed, slower second read as it did to my first impatient ("What happens NEXT?")speed run. If you're wondering, yes, you should buy this book. Unless your true love is highly technical space opera, or blood and guts horror (Not that there's anything wrong with either, in their own place, but what in the world are you doing reading this review, if so?), you won't regret it.
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