Review of: Thirteenth Child
Author - Patricia C. Wrede
Genre(s) – Fantasy, Alternate History
Pages - 320
Publisher – Scholastic Press
Publication Date - April 15, 2009
Plot - 27/30
Writing - 19/20
Characters - 18/20
Creativity - 19/20
The *Wow* Factor - 9/10
Grand Total - 92/100
Grade – A-
Summary (From Amazon) -
Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means he's supposed to possess amazing talent -- and she's supposed to bring only bad things to her family and her town. Undeterred, her family moves to the frontier, where her father will be a professor of magic at a school perilously close to the magical divide that separates settlers from the beasts of the wild.
With wit and wonder, Patricia Wrede creates an alternate history of westward expansion that will delight fans of both J. K. Rowling and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews with varying reactions to this book, but I really enjoyed Thirteenth Child! I found it to be original, and it appealed to my interest in parallel worlds and alternate histories. It may be a bit slow for some readers, but I think that it will appeal to those who like books with this pacing, as well as fantasy lovers.
The world building for Thirteenth Child was incredible, and I enjoyed learning about this alternate version of 19th century America and the many types of magic and creatures. There were mentions of many historical figures from our world, but many events and people in power were different due to the existence of magic, and many country names were different. North America (or at least the US) was known as Columbia, and Europe was Avrupa. Many of these changes were fairly small, but they were different enough to draw my interest. The setting of Thirteenth Child was one of my favorite parts of the book. Some things weren’t perfectly explained, but Thirteenth Child is only the first book in a series, so it is likely that more will be revealed later.
I enjoyed the characters, who were mostly three-dimensional and interesting to read about, but sometimes I felt that there were too many to keep track of. Eff, the main character, had such a huge family and met so many people that it became confusing at times. But I suppose this is due to the fact that the book takes place over many years, from the time Eff is 4 to when she turns 18. I especially liked reading about Eff’s struggles to accept herself despite her extended family’s prejudice against “unlucky/evil” thirteenth children. Some of Eff’s relatives were infuriating, but that was the point. They were the characters that readers love to hate.
The plot was a bit hard to pin down, which is why this book didn’t get an A. The first half of the book is mainly about Eff growing up, and is very episodic. This is the part that may be considered slow, especially since Eff does not cross the magical barrier until she is 18. It is after this that Eff is challenged to use all that she has learned growing up to solve a problem that is the climax of the book. Perhaps the next book will have a tighter plot.
There is some controversy over this book because it has no mention of Native Americans, and while this is a bit disturbing, I found some evidence in the book that they might be introduced later in some form or another. In one part of the book, a character who had gone west mentioned seeing smoke come from beyond the mountains (the Rockies.) And while there are three main systems of magic in the book (Avrupan, Aphrikan, and Hijero-Cathayan), it is mentioned that there are numerous other types, including some that are unknown to the Columbian settlers. SPOILER: Also, Eff is given a magical necklace by the same person who saw the smoke (a traveling magician), which supposedly has spells from unknown magic systems woven into it. So it is likely that this world’s version of Native Americans will show up in the next books, and if they do, they probably have their own systems of magic.
This book has been compared to Harry Potter, the Little House books (it did have a similar feel to them,) and the Monster Blood Tattoo books, but I’m going to add another comparison. I see lots of similarities to the Worldweavers books by Alma Alexander, which is set in the present time, but in a world that has always had magic. I’d recommend Thirteenth Child to anyone who likes these books.
Book From (Review Group, Bought, Library, Publisher, Author, Contest, Etc.) - Library
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