This is the first book I've read by Patricia C. Wrede other than The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which are one of my favourite fantasy series ever. The Far West is a lot different from those books though, in writing style and tone as well as content. I still enjoyed it, but I can't put it on par with those lovely and entertaining dragon books.
The biggest differences I noticed in writing style were that The Far West has a lot more technical talk and a lot less imagery than The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. It was like an explorer's log rather than a fairy tale--yes that's exactly what it was. Which is why I can't really say that I have a favourite character or that any part made me cry or gasp or turn the pages faster. But I didn't dislike it! It's just very different. In terms of tone, it's a lot more serious than The Enchanted Forest Chronicles... actually nothing funny or random happens in it. But that's okay.
One thing I love about this book is the world in which it is set. It's like an AU north america, with magic and a dangerous unmapped West (they want to reach the Rocky Mountains). There are place names that match up and some that almost match up and others that are just made up--there are also characters, past and present, who are named after real historical figures, such as Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln.
I also enjoyed the descriptions of magic throughout the book. Some of the things were similar to things that happen in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, like creatures and spells that can drain magic, and magic being a part of the world around that can be shaped and manipulated by skilled magicians. I also really liked the way it was described when Eff would go deeper into the magic, lose herself in it, in order to boost the other magicians' power and tweak spells, etc. If you think about it too hard it doesn't make sense, but something about the description made it very easy to visualize what Eff might be seeing.
I was thinking as I came near the end of the book that I was going to have to say in this review that the ending was anticlimactic--because they (spoilers) didn't reach the Rocky Mountains, and there wasn't any sort of big battle or anything (other than the one with the rock dragons). But then I finished it and realized what kind of book it was (like I said before, an explorer's log) which is one that doesn't need a climax. Plus the ending was satisfying and well wrapped up.
Now, quotes. I have two! Here they are:
"It's hard to walk away from what you know, even when you're positive you're heading for something better." --pg. 159
"You Avrupans, you fill a bucket with water and think you know the river. But if you take the river to pieces, it isn't a river any longer." --pg. 209
And with that, I bid you adieu.