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Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic #1)

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,289 Ratings  ·  1,131 Reviews
With wit and wonder, #1 "New York Times"-bestselling author Wrede creates an alternate history of westward expansion in an amazing new trilogy about the use of magic in the Wild West.
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Turtleback Books (first published April 15th 2009)
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Jun 19, 2009 Peterb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The other week I made a mistake and read some things on the Internet. In particular, I was sucked in to following a contretemps (read: “flamewar”) with the nickname of “Racefail 2.0″. The premise of the flamewar is that a writer, Patricia Wrede, wrote a book called The Thirteenth Child which was an exemplar of racist writing. The book takes place in a 19th century-America (”Columbia”) where magic is real, where megafauna roam the plains, and where the First Peoples never crossed the land bridge ...more
Jubilation Lee
So, when Thirteenth Child came out a couple of years ago, it was instantly embroiled in the epic and horrifying RaceFail 2009, and I lit my torch and waved my pitchfork and was adamantly in the Never To Read camp. Because seriously, the implication that it easier to simply write Native Americans out of her speculative America than to have to deal with all the potential Native American Stereotyping Problems… that was a no-no in my book.

And that was depressing. Because Patricia Wrede is like a mag
Aug 15, 2010 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so I was about to start off my review by saying that it's kindof like Little House meets Harry Potter. In fact, I even looked up the number for Little House on the Prairie so I wouldn't have to type out the whole name and I could look super cool because the link would still work anyway.

Then, after I looked up the number I started to read some of the other reviews (a dangerous habit) some of which read: "everybody keeps saying it's like Harry Potter meets Little House on the Prairie - which i
Nov 09, 2015 MLE rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yad
I think this sums it up.


I'm not going to read the rest of the series.
Tamora Pierce
Like the sequel, ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER, this book is set in a North America in which there are no Native Americans. While I accepted this as a fantasy universe, unrelated to ours (and I've read other books in which other races, including white, are omitted, and accepted them), and read it the book on its own merits, many people I respect deeply object to what they see as the deliberate erasure of the Native Americans. I tell you this so that you can make your own choice about whether you will ...more
Read This Review & More Like It At Ageless Pages Reviews

As a long time reader of Patricia Wrede's work, I have to say I was disappointed. There's no humor like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles or the Cecelia and Kate series, but there's also really no spirit of adventure like the Lyra books. Overall, Thirteenth Child is flat and depressing.

I had high hopes for the book. A low/alternate fantasy set not in medieval or Victorian England? Sign me up. Unfortunately, the world building was confusin
Despite the love of her family, Eff was born the 13th child and as such her relatives consider her cursed. She is as much despised as her twin brother, Lan the 7th son of a 7th son is loved. When her uncle attempts to have her arrested on a trumped up charge, her parents decide enough is enough and accept a job teaching at a college on the frontier.

For the first time in her life, Eff is able to live without a shadow hanging over her and with the guidance of a teacher of African magic she finall
The Thirteenth Child tells the story of Eff Rothmer, a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is a double-seventh child, a position of great magical power and potential. Unfortunately for Eff, the thirteenth child is said to be cursed, hazardous to those around them, and even evil. Eff is terrified that she will one day "go bad" and hurt those around her, so she tries desperately to control her magic, and possibly even rid herself of it. Eff must learn how to become her own person with her own ...more
Anne Osterlund
Dec 12, 2014 Anne Osterlund rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eff is a thirteenth child. Destined, according to common magic, to “go bad.” Her aunts, uncles, and cousins are all of the opinion she should never have been born. A problem they think still might be rectified . . .

But Eff’s parents aren’t “common.” And when they make the extraordinary decision to leave the city and move the younger members of their family to the edge of the frontier, Eff has the chance to start over. To keep the secret. To learn aphrikan magic instead of avropan. To study with
else fine
Jul 11, 2011 else fine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids, ya, read2011
Something was missing. I kept reading, thinking surely Indians would appear. Maybe the narrator was too young to pay attention to un-European cultures, too wrapped up in her own family dynamics. Maybe they hadn't gotten far enough West? Maybe Indians would appear in the next volume?

Well. No Indians at all simply didn't occur to me, until I took a look at the blogs on the Tor site. Wrede decided to skip them, being uncomfortable with the only two options she perceived for portraying white/indian
May 23, 2009 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Proper credit to the folks who dream big. Even if they fail, they fail brilliantly, wrapped tightly within the confines of their meticulously constructed little worlds. When I got my copy of Thirteen Child I was told by two similar people two very different things. Friend #1 said: It's brilliant. It's like nothing you've read before. If you haven't read it, start. Friend #2 said: It's dull. Nothing happens. Don't waste your time. And as I am a fan of divisive books, I plunged right in. They've b ...more
An Odd1
Feb 24, 2013 An Odd1 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In a magical alternate Ben Franklin time, Bostonian Helvan Shores place, everyone knows the seventh son of the seventh son is the best of all, and the thirteenth child, the worst, even before age ten, when their magical powers show. Nasty relatives of narrator Eff, and her twin brother Lan, are cruelly certain. In the wild West, Mill City offers Papa, Henry, a university teaching position, with housing.

Despite pleas from elder progeny already moved out, the Rothmer parents lead the younger broo
Monica Edinger
I was eager to read this because I'd liked Wrede's other books (the Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate series) and am always on the lookout for books that create a distinctly American magical world. So I dived in. (6/18/09 see update at end of this review.)

The world building here is thorough. Wrede gives us an alternate American frontier --- one where magic and magicians rather than rifles and John Wayne types keep settlers safe. We get snippets of alternate political history (some
Jan 23, 2014 Sesana marked it as dnf-or-not-gonna-happen  ·  review of another edition
I know this actually all went down a few years ago, but I'd essentially forgotten that this was on my TBR. I've done a lot of thinking about this book, and I've decided that, even if there are some good aspects to the book, I can't do it. I can't stomach reading a story set in the American West that erases the Native American population because the author thinks it would be too hard to write them in a non-stereotypical way. Yes, it's an alternate history, but I still don't feel like that excuses ...more
Filamena Young
Jun 01, 2009 Filamena Young rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
So let me start off by saying, it’s about three hours after my bedtime, but I couldn’t go to sleep without telling you about Patricia Wrede’s Thirteenth Child. I’d actually planned to post this sometime later today, on release day and all, but I can’t wait. I’m writing this in a bit of fit of passion, so you’ll forgive me for that. (My class tomorrow might not, but they’ll just have to learn around my snoring.)

I’d picked it up again earlier today to reread the second half because I wanted to giv
Oct 18, 2011 Anne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I already knew about this book's seriously problematic issue of, you know, erasing the existence of Native Americans, so I would never have spent money for it. But I was given a free copy, and I was really curious about what the book was like, so I gave it a go.

I actually thought that maybe the erasure of Indians thing wouldn't be that visible -- I was working on the assumption that the history I learned in school and a lot of the frontier books out there basically already do this, so probably i
I loved this book. The prose had the perfect amount of description. I loved the depth of the magic system; it felt well-developed. The book was fascinating, and I loved Eff. She and her family were wonderful characters. It was very original, and I admit that I also loved that Ms. Wrede was able to tell such an intriguing story without any romance.
A fun look at what settling the western United States would look like if magic, mammoths, and dragons were involved. Eff, the protagonist and an unlucky thirteenth child, is an utterly charming character, and Wrede has set up a wonderful world for future books that I can't wait to read!
Snarl Furillo
Mar 17, 2015 Snarl Furillo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Since I last used it (2011 or 2012?) Goodreads seems to have gotten a more sophisticated recommendations algorithm, and I have been wanting some lighthearted/engrossing but not depressing books. I added some of my favorite books from when I was a kid along with some recently-read grown-up novels and figured I would try the first few recommedations without being too choosy.

When the first couple came from interlibrary loan I was all jazzed and picked "Thirteenth Child" (which I didn't realize unt
Barbara ★
This was surprisingly good. Though I really shouldn't be surprised as everything I've read by Patricia Wrede has been excellent. This is the first book of a new series involving magic and magical creatures in the old US while mammoths and wholly rhinoceroses roamed.

Eff Rothmer and her family moved to the Frontier when her uncle called the police on her to have her arrested (at 5 years old) because she was a potential danger to the family. As the thirteenth child, her life was viewed as cursed b
I really enjoyed the concept of this book, the idea of magic in the time of the American westward expansion, but ultimately the execution fell flat for me. A couple of things stuck out to me:

* The complete lack of Native Americans. I can see this has generated some controversy. It stuck out like a sore thumb to me and left me constantly waiting to see when Wrede would introduce them. Alternate history is fine, but you have to go way, way back to find a plausible explanation for why no people ent
Jul 07, 2014 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My boyfriend found this on audible and liked it so much that he introduced me to it less than a week after he finished reading it. All I can say is that he has good taste. The story is well told, and is in an alternate history setting which is rather odd to me. But so well done as to be believable. Lewis and Clark went on their expedition but disappeared never to return only the first the 3 presidents are the same and magic is prevalent in society as well as superstitious people. Eff short for F ...more
Laura (Kyahgirl)
3/5; 3 stars; B

I enjoyed this story of an alternate history of settling the west, complete with magical wild animal enemies, settlers, and a different class of people 'back East'. Mostly this story is the recounting of the childhood and teen years of a girl who is considered by many to be back luck because she's the thirteenth child in a family of magic users. The long narrative is told from her point of view and includes a mixture of family stories, frontier life stories, and world building aim
A book which brought a mix of good and bad reactions. Set in an alternate America called Columbia during the "Go West!" era, except this is a world of magic, and Columbia is a continent seething with magical wildlife, from woolly rhinoceroses to steam dragons. Add to this Eff, the thirteenth child of a Seventh Son, sister to a double-seventh who is expected to be as powerful and lucky as the thirteenth is said (by some) to be unlucky and prone to wickedness.

The story followed the unlucky thirtee
Aug 10, 2015 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read a few of Patricia Wrede's books over the years, and I always enjoyed her whimsy and humor, but felt the books I had read were lacking something. I knew there was a book in her that I would dearly love, and kept waiting for it.

This is the book. Thirteenth Child has a depth and originality that shows Wrede's full-flowering as an author and inventor of worlds. Eff Rothmer is a strong character who shows the realistic effects of a childhood bullied by enemies but guided by loving parents
Eff is the 13th child born in her family (& 7th daughter). Lan is her younger twin and is the 7th son of a 7th son. Because of this birth order, the extended family of these two expect great things from Lan, and expect Eff to turn bad. In part because of these expectations, Eff's family move "out west" to a new college being formed where her father will be a professor of magic.

A note on Eff's world. Imagine America in the 1800s, but in this America (called Columbia) magic is a real force, a
Eff Rothmerr is a thirteenth child, according to superstition, doomed to bring bad luck to all those around her. Added to her pain is the fact that her twin, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means the same tradition and superstition that has handed Eff the place of pariah, has handed her brother a place of power and prestige.

EFF and Lan's parents, aware of this contriversy, move their family to the frontier, just behind the great barrier. There Eff is away from the daily taunting o
Apr 23, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Foz Meadows
Feb 15, 2010 Foz Meadows rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Something I really appreciated about this story was the extent to which every member of Eff's very large family was a real, distinct character - someone whose actions impacted on everyone else. Wrede has taken the extant idea of power residing in seventh sons and thirteenth children and made it unquestionably her own. In the hands of a lesser writer, the fact that Eff was a thirteenth child would have been little more than a convenient excuse with which to explain her abilities, with her twelve ...more
Eva Mitnick
May 12, 2009 Eva Mitnick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, fantasy
Eff’s twin brother Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, ensuring that he has greater-than-usual magical power. Unfortunately, Eff was born just before Lan, making her a thirteenth child – and superstition has it that thirteenth children can’t help but bring evil and misfortune on everyone around them. Although Eff’s immediate family finds this a ludicrous notion, Eff gets enough grief from other folks to internalize the fear that she is bad luck.

Even after her father moves the family out to
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Patricia Collins Wrede was born in Chicago, Illinois and is the eldest of five children. She started writing in seventh grade. She attended Carleton College in Minnesota, where she majored in Biology and managed to avoid taking any English courses at all. She began work on her first novel, Shadow Magic, just after graduating from college in 1974. She finished it five years later and started her se ...more
More about Patricia C. Wrede...

Other Books in the Series

Frontier Magic (3 books)
  • Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic, #2)
  • The Far West (Frontier Magic, #3)

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“That is certainly one way to look at the matter. There are others.” 41 likes
“This is the most important lesson you must learn about magic," Miss Ochiba went on. "There are many ways of seeing. Each has an element of truth, but none is the whole truth. If you limit yourselves to one way of seeing, one truth, you will limit your power. You will also place limits on the kinds of spells you can cast, as well as their strength. To be a good magician, you must see in many ways. You must be flexible. You must be willing to learn from different sources. And you must always remember that the truths you see are incomplete.” 23 likes
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