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Across the Great Barrier

Review

Across the Great Barrier

In THIRTEENTH CHILD, readers were introduced to an alternative fantasy-based history where the United States was slowing expanding west. Due to the threatening nature of the wild animals, a great magical barrier was erected to keep people safe. Beyond the great barrier, though, settlements had to fend for themselves. After the last threat --- a plague of mirror-bugs that gravitated towards magic wiped out the crops --- the settlements are struggling to get back on their feet. With the clearing and new growth, the settlement office decides this is the perfect opportunity to send an excursion out to study the mysteries of the Wild West.

Eff Rothmer, a somewhat unlucky 13th child, has been fretting about what to do for months. She has finished secondary school, and although she possesses great magical ability, she’s not sure she’s cut out for higher academia. Her twin brother Lan, a seventh son of a seventh son, is studying magic back East and desperately wants her to pursue her studies with him. Eff would rather stay and look after the magical creatures in her hometown close to the great barrier. She’s delighted, then, when she’s asked to be part of the excursion that will be surveying the land beyond the great barrier. She’s also quite terrified.

Eff has been beyond the barrier before and knows the dangers it presents. The animals, both regular and magical, are unpredictable and can attack at a moment’s notice. Professor Torgeson, the head of the excursion, and Wash, the trusty guide, have taken every precaution to ensure the safety of the group, but that doesn’t guarantee they won’t run into any problems --- or mysteries. On a relatively boring stop, Professor Torgeson stumbles upon a cache of stone creatures. The creatures are far too intricate to be carved statues, and there’s no telling who or what might have turned them to stone.

Before Eff has time to puzzle over the potential threat, disaster strikes. News reaches the west that Lan has been in some sort of magical accident, and Eff is asked to come right away. Eff watches helplessly as Lan lies in a coma with no cure in sight. Meanwhile, new stone creatures start popping up, and a man’s leg has to be amputated after it’s turned to stone. The frontier is a dangerous place, and not even the great magical barrier may provide enough protection this time.

Patricia C. Wrede expertly captures the sense of adventure and romance that accompanies exploring a new frontier. Even with all the dangers and threats, the characters remain strong and brave as you get the sense that they feel it’s their honor and duty to unveil all the mysteries of the Wild West. What I appreciate most about this series is the unique and original setting, the agreeable and easy-going characters, and the endless opportunities to explore and discover. Wrede has built a complex and magical history, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the final book of the trilogy.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on November 4, 2011

Across the Great Barrier
by Patricia C. Wrede

  • Publication Date: July 1, 2012
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0545033462
  • ISBN-13: 9780545033466