Title: Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic: Book One)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: Alternate History, Sword and Sorcery, Young Adult
Publisher: Scholastic (May 2010)
UNLUCKY THIRTEEN . . .
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 doom to everyone around her. 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 protects settlers from the beast of the wilderness.
Eff and Lan do not know what awaits them in such a place – there are steam dragons that hover in the sky and strange creatures that undermine the settlers’ existence. Eff learns magic with the other students, but there’s always the threat of something going terribly wrong. As Eff and Lan grow older, they face challenges they never could have dreamed of. And their magic is put to the test in a standoff that will change their lives forever.
Rating: ****(4 stars)
I am a fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles – though I have only ever read the first two. So when I heard of Thirteenth Child on Goodreads, I thought it sounded interesting enough to keep an eye out for. I saw a copy of it in a bookstore just after Christmas and picked it up; I was not disappointed.
Thirteenth Child tells the story of, and is narrated by, Eff the thirteenth child in her family amd the twin sister of Lan – the seventh son of a seventh son, which apparently means that he will be very powerful. Eff as the thirteenth child, in contrast, will be evil – or at least, that is what certain relatives tell her until she and her family move away to the frontier. It is an idea that Eff carries with her through the book, and something she struggles with. It was one of the themes that ran through Thirteenth Child, and despite worrying that she will become “evil” Eff has a very good relationship with her family – particularly with her twin, who she cares for deeply.
Thirteenth Child reads a lot like a “typical” frontier novel – or film – except that there just happens to be magic. I thought that it was a really interesting twist, and really liked the way that Wrede set up the world – it seemed like it would be really interesting to explore, if somewhat dangerous. The book focuses mainly on Eff and her family, as well as other settlers she encounters at the frontier.
I found the book to be a very enjoyable and engrossing read on the whole – I kept putting the book down, and the drifting back to it and reading another couple of chapters until before I knew it I’d reached the end. However, I don’t think this book would be for everyone. Part of the reason I found Thirteenth Child so enjoyable was the fact that I know nothing about how the US was really settled, except what I’ve seen in films. Readers have accused Wrede of “white washing” Native Americans, and it is true that only settlers feature in the book.
If you like alternative histories with magic then you might want to consider exploring this world. I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.