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Thirteen Orphans (Breaking the Wall #1)

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  835 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
As evocative and moving as Charles de Lint’s Newford books, with the youthful protagonists and exciting action of Mercedes Lackey’s fantasies, Thirteen Orphans makes our world today as excitingly strange and unfamiliar as any fantasy realm . . .and grants readers a glimpse of a fantasy world founded by ancient Chinese lore and magic.

As far as college freshman Brenda Morris
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Tor Books
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Feb 23, 2009 Kristin rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2008
Read from 11/27 to 12/2. Great idea for a story that's marred by the fact that most of the book consists of people sitting around in a house and talking about what they ought to be doing.
Nov 23, 2014 Dorian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brenda's dad wants to introduce her to an old friend of his...but when they get to Albert's place, there's no sign of him, and it looks like there's been an intruder. Even worse, when they finally do catch up with him, even Brenda can tell that Albert is, in the words of the Beatles song, not half the man he used to be. And worse again, pretty soon the same thing happens to Brenda's dad. And now what are Brenda and the allies she's just barely met to do?

This book fits loosely into the urban fant
Jul 29, 2016 Ursa rated it liked it
Two and a half stars.

I love big and diverse cast of characters, I love stories that are based on the Chinese zodiacs, and anything that has to do with kung fu and Asian mythologies. Imagine my excitement when I found Thirteen Orphans—a book that promises me all of the above. Unfortunately, by the time I finished this book, I strongly believed that there should be a legit rule that bans Westen authors from churning out Oriental fiction, anything with a narrative that tries to pass off as points o
May 15, 2010 Sandi rated it it was ok
I was all set to give Thirteen Orphans 3 stars. Even though it had a lot of flaws, it kept me interested and entertained. However, I downgraded it because of the way it ended. Rather, I downgraded it because of the way it stopped rather than ended. It was as if someone had taken a bigger book and just arbitrarily chopped it in half. I can't even call the ending a cliffhanger, it was just a non-ending. It may have been the worst non-ending ever.

As I said, up until the non-end, Thirteen Orphans wa
Laura Jennings
Aug 26, 2013 Laura Jennings rated it did not like it
This kind of book is the only one of its kind, and I specifically sought it out because it was about the Zodiac. Video games use Zodiac archetypes in spades; literature not so much. And my God, was this a chore to get through.
The ratio of story to author-trying-to-convince-you-that-no-really-this-world-could-totally-work is about 10% to 90%. The concept in and of itself is not interesting enough to BE the story, and it is. If you've ever had somebody describe how awesome their idea for a D&D
Lisa Grabenstetter
Jul 23, 2010 Lisa Grabenstetter rated it did not like it
I abhorred this book.
The premise was interesting, but Linskold managed to destroy it utterly.

The pacing was snail-slow, the dialogue choppy and unrealistic. Lindskold seems to think we need every present character to repeat every new plot revelation, which means basically the same line three or four times over. This is the first book I've ever read where I actually had to skip portions of dialogue just in order to stay motivated enough to read more.

Worse, she takes what could be a story populat
Jan 05, 2016 Jacob rated it it was ok
Like _The Silver Ship and the Sea_, this book is half a book's worth of content in a whole book's pages. I wanted to like this book, since much of it takes place in the Bay Area and I love the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, but so little happens and there's a lot of talking and hanging out. It was bad enough that even one of the characters in the book got bored of it! That should have told the author something.

There were only five action scenes (one at the beginning to fool you), and t
Nov 21, 2008 Betsy rated it really liked it
This has a great premise - magic, alternate version of ancient China called the lands of smoke and sacrifice, the thirteen beings who escaped this world and whose heirs eventually found their way to various parts of the U.S. Suddenly,these thirteen who are each associated with an animal from the Chinese zodiac and who perform magic spells using elements from their own personalized Mah Jong sets, are being attacked and having their memories stolen. Of the original 13, only 4 remain - two who have ...more
Jun 25, 2013 Hannah rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
The concept of a maj-jong based magical system is intriguing, but the execution is rather dull in this book, the first of a series I don't think I'll be finishing. The ensemble cast spend most of the book sitting around talking, speculating, and working on their spells. I like to play games, but I don't like to read pages of details of mah-jong rules, tiles, and special plays, which are sprinkled heavily through the book. The final third makes up for all the discussion with a series of exciting ...more
Apr 29, 2009 Kerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, library, 8, 2009
The first of Jane Lindskold's books I read was Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls, which, as best as I can recall, a friend loaned to me. I was attracted by the title and entranced by the strange, quirky story within. (One of my goals for this year is to reread the book; I hope I love it as much on a reread many years later.) From then on, I kept an eye out for Lindskold's books. Some I passed on, some I loved (Changer and Legends Walking particularly and I wish she'd write more in that unive ...more
Apr 08, 2009 Vickie rated it really liked it
Duality: that is something that this book revolves around more than any other theme. And in that sense, it is very successful. Brenda Morris never knew about a specific aspect of her father's past until it attacked them, and she is thrust into a world where 12 descendants (plus one emperor), each identified under a specific Zodiac sign, are under attack from an unknown enemy. We follow Brenda as she learns of her inherited past and fights to regain what was stolen.

The book switches POV, though i
Jan 30, 2016 Ari rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
rating: solid yikes

so years ago I read one of the sequels to this book -- I vaguely remembered enjoying it and thinking I should go and read the first one, and finally I've gone and done that.

from opening the book I had a premonition of yikeses, honestly. this is a book based on the chinese zodiac, with characters who have qualities associated with their animals. (possibly I read the other book by this author because I really liked Fruits Basket as a youth??) but the author and all the people t
Dec 22, 2015 Carrie rated it liked it
Two elements of this book attracted me: the author (who wrote "Through Wolf's Eyes" and its sequels, which I love), and the relation to Chinese Mythology. I was slightly wary, as the moment I saw the title I knew it related to the Chinese zodiac, and feared clichéd-ness. Granted, there have been some brilliant stories related to the zodiac, but it's still been done a lot. Also, the plot sounded very cliche. Still, I loved what I'd read of this author's works so far, so I gave it a shot.

All in al
Sep 16, 2009 Annmarie rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was a decent if convoluted urban fantasy. It features Brenda, a part-Chinese college student, who learns that her father is one of a magical "Thirteen Orphans", going back to Chinese mythology & ancient history; the powers are inherited by one person in each family. The Orphans are named for the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac (plus one, The Cat) and they use a mah jong board in their magic. They immigrated to America a couple generations ago, to avoid assassination attempts from peopl ...more
Ryan Mishap
May 17, 2010 Ryan Mishap rated it liked it
Whizz bang! No pondering, no nuance, and the plot reads like a Dungeons and Dragons game--we all know how fantasy books go, right? Not this one.

This is a long haul book. Where we get a plot that unfolds rather than explodes. Where characters have an interior life that isn't solely focused on the immediate predicament. Where the history that makes the new world created by the author is complex and not explained all at once. You can click on the book title and get the gist of the story, what I'm
Feb 03, 2009 Karen rated it it was amazing
Jane, the author, contacted me to let me know her book was out. I had heard her read part of this book back in August and really enjoyed the story, when I didn't have any background information.

So far, this is a great read! It's hard to put the book down.

Thoughts on final read: While this is a fantasy book, the storyline weaves everyday people into interesting themes-this one centered around the game of Mahjong. There were some great clues and foreshadowing in the book. I really thought certain
Oct 09, 2009 Amanda rated it it was ok
What started out as a promising take on Chinese myth turned out to be....a little boring. The beginning of the book totally had me hooked. The mah jong tiles were cool, the fact that the Chinese zodiac was based on wizards who were exiled from a faraway mythical land and passed their powers on to their children, the whole mysterious attacks on the descendants of said zodiac. All very cool. However, somewhere in the middle...something slowed way down. Even the characters commented on the inactivi ...more
Jan 21, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, 2010, urban-fantasy
This book was excellent! I haven't read many stories like this that so fully integrate another culture (Chinese/Lands of Smoke and Sacrifice). The story was carefully crafted and the explanation (which was a LOT) and back story required were seamlessly woven into the tale.

I have already looked into purchasing the next in the series - The Nine Gates. It appears that the minor love story will be picking up in the next book. It was refreshing to have characters that didn't jump into bed with one a
Aug 05, 2009 Jag rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Lindskold fans
Shelves: fantasy
Not one of Lindskold's best, but not her worst. It's what I would call a fairly average story that gets dragged down by lectures.

The characters are enjoyable enough, though at least one of the enemies is a bit of a caricature. What mostly bogs the story down is that you have characters constantly explaining things. At times the story can read more like a crafting manual than a novel and it gets tiresome.

Get it from the library, buy it if you love it.
Apr 21, 2016 Stephanie rated it liked it
Shelves: first-in-series
It starts out a little slow. There's lots of explanations about maj jong and how its connected to magic. If you've played maj jong (not solitaire) you'd probably enjoy this book.

This book is an introduction for what's coming next. I hope the next one moves a little faster.
Feb 19, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: hardback
Well, finished the book last night

Grrr -- now we have to wait for the next book!!!
May 10, 2011 Tobey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I usually save the bad stuff for later on in my review, but let's deal with it first this time, shall we?

The first half of this book was a miserable and boring slog through lots of dinner conversations about really awesome sounding stuff that wasn't happening. I wanted to throw Thirteen Orphans against the wall more than once. Seriously, conversation after conversation over expensive chocolates, oolong tea and almond cookies, California cuisine, burgers and fries, jasmine tea and almond cookies
The folklore of the British Isles, and of Western Europe in general, is well-trodden ground in fantasy fiction. So, when I heard that Jane Lindskold had begun a series based on Chinese mythology, I was eager to read it. It would be something fresh and unusual, and I’ve greatly enjoyed Lindskold’s writing in the past.

Thirteen Orphans is the first novel in the Breaking the Wall series, which I would classify as “old-school urban fantasy.” The phrase “breaking the wall” comes from the game of mah-j
May 27, 2012 Libby rated it really liked it
One hundred or so years ago, thirteen refugees fled into this world from The Land of Smoke and Sacrifice. Twelve were warriors and magicians, sworn to guard the safety of the 13th, their boy emperor, forced from home and throne by war and a political coup. They accepted exile in return for oaths that their foes would spare their families and friends. The Land of Smoke and Sacrifice had been formed in its universe by events in China during and after the Warring States period, so they originally f ...more
Lindsey Duncan
When college sophomore Brenda Morris' father drags her along to meet eccentric chocolatier Albert Yu, they instead encounter a sinister plot to steal the memories of the Thirteen Orphans - the descendants of twelve advisors and their emperor, exiled long ago from a land of myth. Luckily, some of the senior Orphans have survived, in particular the aging Tiger, Pearl.

The greatest strength in this story is the setting and the way the characters interact with it. The Chinese zodiac determines the na
Oct 17, 2011 Lighthearted rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
On summer vacation from college, Brenda Morris travels with her father Geharis to California to meet one of his old friends, Albert Yu. Albert is missing when they arrive though and despite evidence of a struggle, her father calls Pearl, another friend, rather than the police. Geharis and Auntie Pearl then begin to share details of an astonishing tale. Their ancestors are from The Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice; decades ago an emperor and his 12 advisors were exiled and most of their descen ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Josie rated it it was ok
Being honest up front: I am reading all three books in the series because it is extremely rare for me to stop reading a series even if I dislike them. I read all the frigging Rhapsody books, for crying out loud. (I did stop reading the Terry Goodkind doorstoppers though.)

Contains some mild spoilers.

So...I'm reading Nine Gates right now. Read this one last night. As other reviewers commented, the exotification/Orientalism is really, really off-putting. It's also extremely off-putting that of the
Jan 11, 2014 Mati rated it it was amazing
Chinese Zodiac, Mahjong, fantasy and magic: Thirteen Orphans contains all these things, in a unique blend of page turning fiction. One of my favorite book sale discoveries, it is definitely a great read for those literary fans who love out of the box tales. The story follows 19-year-old Brenda Morris, who was living a comfortable college life, when a man attacks her father, and alters his memories. Brenda soon discovers her father is a descendant of 12 outcasts from the Lands Born from Smoke and ...more
Feb 12, 2010 Shanon rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban-fantasy, dfc-2, 2010
Jane Lindskold has created a complex world and I love it. I enjoyed the connections to mahjong and the zodiac animals. I also loved the magics that could be done using the game pieces. I found myself playing mahjong on the computer more often just so I could see the tiles more and understand the look better.

The view point switches many times throughout the book without being confusing. Usually it's between Pearl, an old child actor & the Tiger, and Brenda who will one day be the Rat. Brenda
Feb 01, 2016 annapi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Lindskold's new fantasy series blends Chinese culture and magic in a fascinating and unusual mix of ancient, modern and arcane. Faintly reminiscent of the magical atmosphere in her novel The Buried Pyramid (which dealt with Egyptian culture), this weaves a story of a deposed emperor exiled with his 12 advisors into our world. After living in hiding for a couple of generations, danger suddenly threatens the 13 as one by one the memories of their magical abilities are stolen. Brenda, heir to her f ...more
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Jane Lindskold is the author of more than twenty published novels, including the six volume Firekeeper Saga (beginning with Through Wolf’s Eyes), Child of a Rainless Year (a contemporary fantasy set in Las Vegas, New Mexico), and The Buried Pyramid (an archeological adventure fantasy set in 1880's Egypt).

Lindskold is also the author of the “Breaking the Wall” series, which begins with Thirteen Orp
More about Jane Lindskold...

Other Books in the Series

Breaking the Wall (3 books)
  • Nine Gates (Breaking the Wall, #2)
  • Five Odd Honors (Breaking the Wall, #3)

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