Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thirteenth Child review

Book Talk: Everyone knows that a seventh son is lucky, and a seventh son of a seventh son is luckiest of all.  Perhaps that's why Eff's seventh son father was determined enough to get a seventh son to risk having a thirteenth child.  Thirteenth children bring bad luck to everything they touch and are doomed to turn evil one day.  So while everyone dotes on her twin brother, her cousins blame her, the unlucky thirteenth child, for everything bad that happens.  When her uncle goes so far as to show up with the sheriff one day, demanding he lock Eff away, her family decides to move out west to the frontier to escape her small-minded relatives. Eff's father takes a job as a professor of magic at a college worryingly close to the magical divide that keeps all the dangerous creatures, magic and natural at bay,  and Eff grows up away from those who know how unlucky she is.  But can she outrun her destiny, or is she doomed to turn evil?  By learning magic like a normal kid, is she endangering everyone she loves? 

Rocks My Socks:  Who doesn't love exploring the nature of will versus destiny?  And what more exciting place to explore that issue than an alternate, magical American frontier?  I've seen a lot of alternate history books inserting magic into European time-lines, and a lot of modern urban American fantasy, but this is the first book I can recall seeing that re-tells the story of westward expansion with magic.    Eff makes a strong female lead as well and even though the narrative covers until she reaches eighteen she never wastes time on romance, which is a pretty rare thing in novels.  The whole world is fascinating and well-thought out with a good balance of familiarity and strangeness and nice touches like the Rationalists who refuse both magic and religion.

Rocks In My Socks: They make a point of convincing Eff in the book that birth order doesn't mean anything and her being thirteenth born doesn't make her unlucky, but then it's obvious that birth order does matter for her double seventh brother who has advanced magical abilities and luck and gets sent to a special school by the same parents who insist birth order doesn't matter to Eff.  He's presented as a sympathetic character in the book, but I still wish he ended up having more of a difficult time of it.

Every Book its Reader: The narrative starts when eff is five, so I suppose it could be relatable for younger children, but as most of the story takes place in her teens I'd recommend it to teens and adults who enjoy magic and history, especially those who enjoy strong female leads.

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