Philip's Reviews > Thirteenth Child

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
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Aug 15, 10

bookshelves: young-adult, liz-aloud
Read from August 07 to 15, 2010

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 is crazy because (insert one or the other here) is WAY better..."

Whatever. I loved the book. It centers around Eff, for Francine, a child who had the unluck to be born 13th. She's blamed for anything bad that happens until her family moves out to an alternate American West and starts their life over again. I got the feeling that this is only the foundation for the series - and it's a pretty solid foundation. The family tension was great, the approach to magic was novel, and the dilemma's our protagonist found herself in were believable. ... i.e. not Mary Sueish. And there was never a time when I was like - why didn't they just cast that spell earlier? That sometimes happens when I read fantasy.

So, some people are upset because Wrede left out the Native Americans. (This is yet another reason why reading other people's reviews before you write yours is dangerous... you feel compelled to counter-argue attacks that might not be worth your time...) In this alternate America we have the first 3 Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson - then two others I can't remember - but it ain't Madison, Taft or FDR... We have Lewis and Clark sailing up the ummm... some river... and then dying. We've got Ben Franklin who was a great magical inventor of sorts. We've got non-concrete examples too - the families heading out to start over, some type of Manifest Destiny, the Rationalists who seem to signify different religious and political views of the times... (I took them to symbolize the Quakers and to some extent the Pennsylvania experiment, but that's just me...) It seems like the Settlement Office sent out our version of Lewis and Clark - as their expedition returns successful only having lost two men.

What we don't have are the Native Americans (or in this case Columbians.) It seems some people are taking this as a slight against them - but I don't think being passed over in a fictitious history for the sake of artistic integrity is worthy of offense. (Hear me out before you start calling me a racist, anti-Native-American bigot. I love Native Americans. I wish I was one. Or at least partly one. I love diversity.) Wrede said something to the extent of, "I don't like the Native Americans as savages stereo-type, but neither do I like the current romanticizing of them either so I'm eliminating the problem by taking them out." (You can find the exact quote here thanks to this reviewer and the link in her review...

The feeling I got from the Wrede quote though was not (as others have contended) that the Native Americans were the problem, but rather the stereotypes of the Native Americans were the problem, and maybe she couldn't write the book without falling back on one of those two stereotypes. So rather than misrepresenting entire Nations, she left them out. So I say Kudos to her. Secondly, did I mention this is an alternate USA? Lewis and Clark didn't die people. Well, ok. They did. Lewis was probably a suicide and Clark got sick... but The Corps of Discovery didn't. Point being, if she wants to avoid certain issues in a fictional world, she's free to do that. If you want to write a fantasy book about Native Columbian magic that helps them keep the Avrupans out - go ahead. I promise not to be offended. Which brings me to my third point - maybe if she would have included them in there the book would have become more about that issue than about Eff and frontier magic. Just a thought. Points being: I feel like it is much ado about nothing. Or much ado about relatively little at any rate. Some people were so offended they took away their stars after it came to light. Obviously, that won't be me. I LOVED this book, and I'll recommend it to any fantasy or non-fantasy fan.

And get used to it. We're sure to see it around for a while. If it's not already it will be the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games...
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08/14/2010 page 250
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Newengland (new)

Newengland See, I'd never know if something was a cross with The Little House on the Prairie because that book is something you know about (thanks to Melissa Gilbert) but never read.


Philip Oooo... busted. So, I haven't actually read the Little House collection either, and have only watched a bunch of the series - but I'm working off the assumption that the series had the book as its heart.

I've gotta say though, some people must be reading them. I think half of the the Little House collection won Newberry Honors.


message 3: by Reese (new)

Reese I enjoyed reading your review. It has that I-really-believe-what-I'm-saying attitude that can put me in someone's camp -- as long as the someone isn't narrow-minded, hateful, egomaniacal, ignorant, drunk --. Oh, dear, I do believe I've excluded millions of people. Perhaps I should simply have praised the tone of your review.

There's one "thing" that I don't understand -- why does anybody read others' reviews BEFORE he/she writes his/her own? Unless you're writing a thesis or dissertation or scholarly article/book and you have to make sure that you're saying something at least slightly different from what everyone else has written, reading others' work before you write about the same subject has way more disadvantages than advantages. You admit this in your review. So???


Philip Yeah... I think I occasionally hit at least three of the five on your list... You may want to up the number to "billions."

As for your second paragraph... I guess curiosity killed little idiot kittens like myself. I don't know, I just finished the book and it was recommended to me by a goodreads friend, so I read her review - which led me to other reviews... Next thing I know I'm in over my head with my toe nipped off by a piranha and the school's heading my way, but what can I do? It's too late. And I know if I make it out alive I'll go swimming in the same river next time.


message 5: by Reese (new)

Reese I actually considered typing "billions," but I thought that my doing so might indicate a lack of respect for the memory of Carl Sagan.

Love your explanation in paragraph two.


Clickety Dude. You have GOT to read the Little House books. Especially the part where her teacher comes over for dinner and she thinks everything's normal, then the next day the two big rotten kids are disrupting the entire school again, and the teacher takes out Pa's enormous bullwhip...

So THAT'S why he came over for dinner...

And then the one where Laura becomes a teacher is great, too. I keep it at school to encourage me because she has some times where she thinks she's a crappy teacher and she's going to FAIL.

One caveat: DO NOT read Farmer Boy while you're hungry. Oh, Lord.


Philip Liz's cousin/ best-friend Mary got them for Eleanor either last Christmas or the Christmas before. They've just been waiting patiently on the shelf.


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