So, ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER? Much more relaxing and just, you know, purely enjoyable than a long, gritty-ish, complicated, multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy. As I knew it would be, of course.
The first book — THIRTEENTH CHILD — is still my favorite of the two because the character development and world building is so wonderful. We’ve got this great version of the American West where magic has SEVERELY limited exploration of maybe the western two-thirds of the continent (steam dragons are my favorite!). And history is different, too, so everything is recognizable but at a slant from how it was in our world. It’s a really fun world to set a story in!
In the sequel, of course, the character and world are both already in place and so though it’s fun to see how the character changes and what gets revealed about the world during the course of the story, that’s not the same.
Of course, slipping into a story where you already know the characters and the world can also be really comfortable, which is no doubt while neverending urban fantasy series are so popular. And even more neverending mystery series, of course. Both of which I love, so don’t think I’m knocking the neverending series thing, because I’m not.
But I really love the first book in a series, if it’s well done, which THIRTEENTH CHILD was really well done. I read it the first time just to enjoy it and then went back and studied how Patricia Wrede did her “time-is-passing” scenes, since she grew her protagonist up from about five years old to eighteen in the course of a very slim book.
Wrede also has to do the time-is-passing thing in ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER, but not as much so because only a year or two pass in the course of the story. The problem the protagonist (Eff) is going to be facing is obvious from the very first glimpse we have of the animal “statues”, but it’s fun to see how things work out.
My favorite detail? I LOVED how the scientist in the story, Professor Torgeson, is SO PERFECTLY A SCIENTIST. All that obsessive, methodical precision and record keeping is EXACTLY right. Loved it!
It’s definitely set the scene for a third book, in which I expect we will finally learn what in the unknown far west has been driving weird and dangerous critters east toward the settlements and towns. Can’t wait to find out!
Next up: TROUBLED WATERS by Sharon Shinn