Yune's Reviews > Thirteenth Child

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
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's review
Dec 19, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: alternate-history-trappings, young-adult, fantasy

I avoided this book for a time because of the problematic milieu -- the settling the Wild West sans Native Americans, but rather with wild magical beasties to contend with.

I finally gave it a go, and I'm a little sad because I loved the voice of the narrator: Eff, the titular thirteenth child, who is considered to be unlucky because of it. Her family decides to move out West to get her away from these prejudiced folks, and she slowly begins to grow in confidence, even though she'll never be a star magician like her twin brother, who's a seventh son and therefore lucky as heck.

The magic systems are notable mostly in that there are multiple ones, distinct in philosophy. One adheres to regimented spellwork, for example, while another is more naturalistic. But pretty much everyone knows some; it's a basic elementary-level class, especially out in the settlements where there's a chance of encountering some unpleasant beast. So Eff's fumbling in this area actually doesn't bode well at all.

The external plot never moved me, although it's a very logical threat in the sort of world that Wrede built. I would've happily buried myself in Eff's day-to-day living instead (and that's why I went on to read the sequel; the voice). And yes, the world's quite solid in itself, but it did feel hollow with its historical omission, and that still sits uncomfortably with me. I enjoyed this one on the surface, but was disquieted on deeper levels, and I'm afraid that's the aftertaste that'll linger.

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