Review: Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Thirteenth ChildThe "Settling the American West" genre spans both fantasy and science-fiction. A number of great writers have written in the genre; Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury and Lois McMaster Bujold to name a few. I am always puzzled why this genre is so peculiarly American. We don't seem to see similar stories coming from Canadian or Australian or New Zealand writers*. Of course I don't expect these writers to write stories about settling the American West, but why they aren't writing stories about settling their own countries, I am not sure.

Thirteenth Child is a YA novel and in this novel Patricia C Wrede crafts a story that may remind you of Orson Scott Card's "Seventh Son" series. In this case, the hero is a young girl named "Eff" coming to grips with her magical heritage. Unlike Alvin Maker in Seventh Son; she is the Thirteenth child in her family and so is reckoned to be a powerful force for bad luck and mischief. While the premise of the story is familiar it soon stands on its' own as our heroine struggles with the prejudices of those around her and her worries that her heritage as the Thirteenth child may indeed cause her to become evil. None of these things are made easier by the constant comparisons with her twin brother, who is the seventh son of a seventh son.

I really liked this novel, and I think it would make a nice jumping off point for discussions with a teenager (or pre-teen) about how people live up (or down) to expectations and how stereotypes hurt people. The book is enjoyable and never preachy.

The sequel Across The Great Barrier will be released in August, and I plan on following Eff's adventures as soon as possible.

* Feel free to show me I'm wrong in the review comments.

Frontier Magic #1: Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
Trade Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: SCHOLASTIC INC (May 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0545033454
ISBN-13: 9780545033459

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