Reviews for Thirteenth Child
Booklist Reviews 2009 June #1
A talent for magic runs in Eff's family. Tormented by an uncle who believes that Eff, as the thirteenth child, will bring "disgrace and doom" to all around her, she is relieved when her parents decide to move the family westward. She grows up enjoying the greater freedom of the frontier, but when something disturbs the magic spells that keep outlying settlements safe, Eff, brother Lan, and their allies must face a dangerous, unpredictable foe. Eff narrates the tale of her life, beginning at age five and ending when she is 18. The time period of the novel is unusually long, but the writing flows well. In one of the few American alternate-history novels for young people, Wrede combines a coming-of-age story with details of frontier life, sightings of prehistoric and magical beasts, and a nod toward global awareness in the field of magic. An original beginning for the Frontier Magic series. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Fall
Lan is the magical seventh son of a seventh son; sister Eff is a cursed thirteenth child. Their story plays out in an alternate Old West setting lacking Native Americans but occupied by fantasy monsters, a world generously spiced with political and magical mysteries, perils, and conflicts. Wrede's characters mature in believable ways throughout the book's thirteen-year span. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #4
>From birth, twins Lan and Eff internalize very different sets of expectations. Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, born with exceptional magical power and destined to do great things; sister Eff is a thirteenth child, cursed and possibly evil. After their father moves the sizable family to the frontier, Eff escapes some of the gossip, hides her stigma, and comes of age amid the physical dangers and political clashes engendered by her nation's westward expansion into territory occupied by fantasy monsters (dragons, among others). It's here that Eff gradually learns to harness her powers by studying non-"Avrupan" (read: "non-European") schools of magical philosophy. The alternate Old West setting affords readers a strong sense of the underlying geography (and provides an engagingly unconventional entry point to the genre); but though Wrede plays with ideas of class, nationalism, and manifest destiny, she avoids the thornier racial issues the time period might suggest (slaves and Native Americans, for example, are entirely absent). Instead, friendships develop, sisters marry, teachers inspire, and numerous colorful personalities pass through Mill City, all building to a climactic showdown with...a bug infestation immune to magic. Wrede's characters are understated but complex, maturing in believable ways throughout the book's sweeping thirteen-year span; and the world-building is generously spiced with political and magical mysteries, perils, and conflicts. Both are interesting enough to fuel the planned sequels. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 April #2
Wrede is back, with a magical alternative history set in the Columbian West, some years after the Secession War. Unlucky 13th child Eff moves with her loving family--professor father, stoic mother, older siblings not yet on their own and her twin, Lan, the 14th child and the seventh son of a seventh son--to a land-grant college on the banks of the Mammoth River, along which runs the Great Barrier Magic that keeps steam dragons and other monsters safely at bay. Eff tells her tale in leisurely fashion, relating the events big and small of her growing up: Lan's advanced magic lessons, her friendship with fellow faculty child William, sister Rennie's elopement with an anti-magic Rationalist--and, perhaps most importantly, her tutoring sessions with Miss Ochiba, who teaches her not only Avrupan but also Hijero-Cathayan and Aphrikan magical techniques. The world-building is effortless, flowing naturally through Eff's conversational narration. The culminating adventure of this volume--an expedition to investigate a plague of destructive grubs--ties up Eff's coming-of-age with a frontier-style bow while leaving her poised for more adventures--many more, readers will hope. (Fantasy. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 April #4
Set in a historical America where magic is part of daily life, Wrede's novel, first in the Frontier Magic series, follows Eff, the 13th child in her family, and the twin of a seventh son of a seventh son. This makes her twin, Lan, a "natural-born magician," while many see Eff as a curse ("If I spilled my soup, it was done apurpose... if a ball I kicked went astray... it was done deliberately in malice and spite"). Eff's family moves to the North Plains Territory where her father has been offered a professorship near the Great Barrier, the spell set up to protect the settlements from animals, magical and otherwise. Wrede (the Enchanted Forest Chronicles) creates a rich world where steam dragons seem as normal as bears, and a sympathetic character in Eff, who has been scarred by the belief that she is evil. There are hints that Eff has more power than she realizes, but the climax is slow to come and lacks the payoff readers will crave after years of Eff's meekness and playing the role as observer in her own life. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) [Page 133]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2009 August
Gr 7-9--In this alternative history, a magical barrier protects most people from the dangerous magical creatures of the Wild West. Eff is a 13th unlucky child who supposedly will cause doom and misfortune, and is twin sister to Lan, the lucky and extra-magical 7th son of a 7th son. This novel covers a lot of ground both in time, following Eff from when she's 5 until she's 18, and in distance, as Eff's family moves to the Western frontier when Eff's magic-professor father and practical mother decide that the move will hide Eff and Lan's differences. Then Lan's potential is revealed after he causes an annoying classmate to float. When he leaves to go to school back East, Eff follows her own path to learning more about magic, including assisting in caring for the magical creatures at her father's college. Her narration provides background about life in this version of early America, where magic helps with daily chores but brings its own dangers. Eff's life in Lan's shadow will ring true to all siblings of a particularly talented child, but at the conclusion it's Eff who uses her own magic to rescue her twin. Reminiscent of Orson Scott Card's "Alvin Maker" books (Tor), this is an interesting, but often slow-moving tale.--Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI [Page 117]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2009 October
In an alternate-history North America, nearly everyone learns magic, and the perilous frontier beyond the Great Barrier Spell is full of mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, steam dragons, and the like. Not that Eff ever sees them in protected Mill City, but that is just as well, considering she was born an "unlucky" thirteenth child. Despite growing up with a loving and protective family, Eff is sure that one day she will go bad. To put off that day, she tries to control her unpredictable skills by studying different magics that teach more than one way of looking at things. When her magician father takes her beyond the Barrier to investigate a destructive beetle infestation, Eff learns just how powerful new ways of looking can be. Wrede has clearly done an immense amount of world building in preparation for the Frontier Magic series, which begins with this book. Unfortunately world building is about all that happens in this story that feels like a long setup for more exciting tales to come. Although Eff is a sympathetic character, she grows from five to eighteen with little action until the last quarter of the book. Readers will yearn for adventure beyond the Barrier--what could be more exciting than wild woolly rhinoceroses in a magical frontier America?--but Eff mostly stays in Mill City. This book will require patient readers who like their fantasies low impact. For a livelier American frontier with magic, suggest Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker series.--Rebecca Moore. Fans of Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles will snatch up Thirteenth Child, encouraged by the dragon on the cover to expect another beautifully written and lighthearted fairytale. Although the book is beautifully written and certainly has its amusing moments, the cover is deceptive; mystical creatures and magic come into the story only as a detail. The book is much more about the characters' individual lives, which, although fascinating, are not what readers will anticipate. 5Q 3P --Hannah Preisinger, Teen Reviewer. 3Q 3P M J Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.