by Patricia C. Wrede. Third in her "Frontier Magic" series.
Francine Rothmer, known as Eff, has mostly overcome the stigma of being a thirteenth child, considered unlucky by some, and mostly grown out of the shadow of her magically gifted twin brother, the seventh son of a seventh son, but she still isn't entirely sure what to do with her own life. She just knows she wants it to involve the Far West, the still largely unknown lands beyond the Great Barrier Spell that runs down the center of North Columbia, along the course of the Mammoth River. Western settlements within a hundred miles of the river notwithstanding, there's a lot of country and a lot of wildlife, both magical and otherwise, that have never been seen before. Eff has traveled that way twice, and is already thinking about a third time even before the government announces an upcoming exploratory expedition.
I'm normally quite interested in fantasy that takes on frontier America, as opposed to the vaguely medieval, vaguely European settings of so much high fantasy from Tolkien on. I think it was Jo Walton who referred to it as the Matter of America, as the Matter of Britain is the stories of King Arthur. Aside from Orson Scott Card and Lois McMaster Bujold not many writers have given it a shot yet. But I'm not sure what to make of this series. I love the author, and I enjoyed the first book in the series pretty well...and then ran across an internet controversy about the author's choice to depict a fantasy American West with no Native Americans. I hesitate to even try and summarize the
two about twenty sides of that argument, but I came away from it feeling that my own initial acceptance of the premise (that the ancestors of the Native Americans had, in this world, stayed in Asia) as a reasonable enough starting point for the story says something not very flattering about my own biases.
In any case, the second and third books in the series came across as kind of repetitive anyway, and Eff is so self-effacing a character that if she weren't the first-person narrator she'd practically disappear.