Monday, December 28, 2009

The Thirteenth Child

Happy 2010, Readers! I hope you've had a wonderful holiday season and received many books as gifts. I was lucky enough to receive this marvelous read by the terrific Patricia Wrede and thought it would be a great book to kick off a new year of reviews.

The Thirteenth Child is about a girl, Eff, who has the misfortune of being the 13th child in the family. To make matters worse, her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son, making him the luckiest one can magically be. In this alternate, mid-19th century America (called "Columbia"), one's birth order is monumentally important, particularly to Eff and Lan's relatives who have taken to tormenting poor Eff to the point of trying to get her arrested and jailed at the age of five. Eff's parents decide that it isn't good for either of them to grow up around so much prejudice and scrutiny and pack up the family and move west to the prairie very close to the Great Barrier that separates civilization from the untamed and treacherous Far West. As she grows up in this completely different environment, Eff discovers her own talent beyond what is expected of her and ends up being the only person who can save the rest of the magical world.

I have adored Ms. Wrede's books for a while but this book surpassed all others. Her world is so perfectly realized, so detailed and thought out, I was completely lost in it. I loved how she would mix history with fantasy - her wildness has steam dragons as well as buffalo, Benjamin Franklin and magician presidents. Although it is very heavily focused on magic, it has such a realness to it, it seemed more Little House on the Prairie than Harry Potter. She perfectly juggled the myriad of characters and I got a wonderful feel for their growth and development. Often I believe that sequels are unnecessary and take away from the first book but I hope so much that Ms. Wrede writes many books in this captivating world. I enjoyed this book cover to cover.

Any books where you got totally lost in the world? Where their setting felt as real as your own?


Sally said...

Great review! I can't wait to read that one! It's definitely on my to-read list (which grows intimidatingly longer by the day).

I think Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci series completely took me in. She made the reality of her world so easy to accept that I found myself wishing quite fervently that I could go to one of the magical counterparts of our world.

Bibliovore said...

I really enjoyed this book, as I do all of Wrede's work.

But there was a lot of concern, and warranted, I think, over the way Wrede simply deleted the Native Americans from the magical New World. Debbie Reese links to some interesting commentary.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Have to get this one - I've loved almost all of her books, especially The Seven Towers and Mairelon the Magician.

[WV: deare - joan??]