Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Length: 9 hours and 30 minutes
Publisher: Audible, Inc
Release Date: June 5, 2013
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Frontier Magic series
Source: Audiobook from Audible.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
I have had this book on my list to read for quite some time. This book is very creative because of the setting. It is all set in the United States during Western Times. The characters are also very engaging and interesting.
I listened to this on audiobook. The audiobook was very well done and I highly recommend listening to this if you have the chance.
Eff is a thirteenth child and twin to her brother, Lan, who is the seventh son of a seventh son. While Lan is supposed to do great things, Eff is only supposed to bring her family misery. Her parents are seeing that Eff is having a hard time of it, so they move out to the Frontier where people don’t believe in the bad luck of a thirteenth child. This gives Eff a chance to start over, however the whole family has to deal with magical dangers of Frontier life.
This was a well done historical fantasy set in America in the “Wild West” time frame. I really enjoyed the world-building and thought the characters were very engaging.
The story moves a bit slowly, but was engaging all the same. I love the way magic is dealt with and all the different schools of magic that are discussed. The real strength of this book is world-building. The Frontier is a place where the Great Barrier protects the settlers from attacks from magical beasties. We see glimpses of magical beasts such as Steam Dragons, swarming weasels, mammoths, and strange grubs that destroy crops.
Eff is an excellent character. She has a lot of magic that she has tried to suppress because of being worried about being a 13th child. Because of this she is always a bit down on herself and thinks everything is her fault. She is strangely accepting of all of this and it takes some time for her to start to build some confidence in herself. The story starts when she is very young (4 years old) but most of the story takes place when she is in her upper teens.
Lan is another interesting character. He is in the opposite situation of Eff, everyone expects the world from him and his outstanding magical abilities. He is forced to live up to a lot of expectations and deal with the fact that everyone thinks he has the answer to everything. As you might imagine Lan starts to get a bit conceited and prideful as the story goes on. He is however absolutely steadfast in his loyalty to Eff.
The other character that features a lot is William. He starts out as an enemy of sorts but ends up being a good friend to Eff. He is constantly supporting her and trying to get her to see she’s not to blame for everything.
Another highlight in characterization is Eff’s parents. They are wonderful parents. They do everything they can to give Lan and Eff the best chance at leading a normal and productive life. It was nice to see a young adult book where the parents are genuinely good people.
There has been a lot of controversy over this book because Wrede leaves out Native American people and culture altogether. This confuses me a bit because this is a fantasy. There are mammoths and steam dragons in this book and they didn’t exist…I think a fantasy author is free to do what they want with the world they build. I understand there may be some political implications, but this is fantasy so what the author creates is the world and I don’t have a problem with that.
I also really enjoyed the different schools of magic and the Rationalist group (who doesn’t believe in using magic). They were well laid out and well done.
The biggest drawback to this story is that it moves pretty slow. It takes a long time to set up this world and explain everything. However, by the end of the book I was very engaged in the story and eager to read more about these characters.
Overall I ended up really enjoying this story. I would recommend to fans of fantasy who want to read something that is in a different setting than normal. You don’t get a lot of fantasy done in a Wild West setting and this was a good one. There is also some great world-building, a neat magic system, and likable characters. I am excited to see what Eff finds in the next book when she journeys beyond the Great Barrier.