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In an alternate version of frontier America, young Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son, and such a birth is powerful magic. Yet even in the loving safety of his home, dark forces reach out to destroy him.

241 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published July 1, 1987

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About the author

Orson Scott Card

682 books18.8k followers
Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and scripts.

Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs plays. He recently began a long-term position as a professor of writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.

Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.

For further details, see the author's Wikipedia page.
For an ordered list of the author's works, see Wikipedia's List of works by Orson Scott Card.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,594 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,854 reviews16.4k followers
April 6, 2016
Orson Scott Card described his novel Seventh Son as an American epic fantasy, contrasting with the uncompromisingly British Tolkeinesque genre of fantasy books.

This reminded me a great deal of Larry McMurtry’s The Berrybender Narratives in its imaginative use of historic people and places to tale the story of the American Frontier in the 1840s. Card, telling a story perhaps set in the 1810-20s makes this even more interesting by slowly unraveling the American past into an alternative history fiction, remaking the American foundation into one more accessible for a fantasy writer. Agree or disagree with his politics, Card is a good writer and spins a good yarn.

What bothered me about this was the deliberate goal of forming a series rather than as a stand-alone novel. No doubt about it, I liked this book a lot, but as I came near the end it became clear that a denouement was no where in sight and I would be expected to pick up a … (gulp) sequel! Card himself in an afterward conceded that the story spun out of control and he expanded the idea of a trilogy into six, then maybe seven books.

A book should be contained between two covers. Having said that, I enjoy a good series, find distraction in an ongoing story and a seemingly endless parade of interesting characters, but winding up one chapter should not simply be a cliffhanging commercial break (pun intended) to get to the next installment.

Having said all that, I (hopeless sappy hypocrite that I am) wasted no time in reading the next book Red Prophet.

Profile Image for James Madsen.
424 reviews34 followers
March 14, 2018
Rather than discuss each of the books in the Tales of Alvin Maker series separately, I'll use this review for all of them. They present an alternate-history account of a nineteenth-century America in which magic is a potent force. Although it might not be evident to non-Mormons, this series is a thinly veiled fictional adaptation of the life of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith (just as his Homecoming Saga is a similarly thinly veiled science-fiction version of the story of the first part of the Book of Mormon). As such, it tends either to enthrall or horrify Mormon readers (just as did Saints, his overtly historical novel about Joseph Smith and polygamy--see my review of Saints). Non-Mormon readers can either have fun looking for the parallels or simply sit back and enjoy the stories for what they are--good stories. They should particularly appeal to those who like to see magic treated intelligently in a series.
Profile Image for Spider the Doof Warrior.
433 reviews238 followers
May 12, 2014
I'm re-reading this book now and, is it just me or does it seem like OSC could actually WRITE BETTER back then?
He doesn't write like this anymore. Now his books are the conservative lecturing version of the Anita Blake serious where instead of sex scenes after sex scenes you get characters nagging about morality and marriage.

Also, why do folks insist on being so dang cruel to kids? Hitting them with hazel rods and smacking then and such? I don't get that.

What I also don't get is, why do people allow religion to separate them anyway? I always think the bonds between people are more important than any religion at all ever.

Now the actual review.

OSC what HAPPENED to you?
You used to know how to write! This was the first book I read by you. It shaped my paradigm. If there was any lecturing about family values it was SUBTLE. You even had a character who wasn't religious and didn't vilify him. You showed him as a loving father who loved his wife but just didn't want to go to church.
You used to be able to tell a good, strong story full of awesome images.
Now it's just nag nag nag. It's too depressing to compare this book to Ender in Exile. That book just isn't as strong because every character is taken over to lecture the audience, and who wants that?
I do not. I want a good book.
Like this one!

May 10, 2014. Read it again. It's still good. It doesn't fill me with rage the way Ender's Game does or Lost Boys or so many other books I liked by OSC one does. Why can't he still write this way?
Profile Image for A. Dawes.
186 reviews55 followers
June 23, 2019
I went into this as an ignoramus, not knowing much about Mormons and the influence that the religious ideology has on Card's work. In fact, my knowledge of the faith largely comes from a South Park episode, which had me in stitches.

A lot of the negative reviews refer to Card's faith, but coming in cold, I can honestly say that I loved this novel, and had no idea of any overt religious aims.

I'm not necessarily a fan of fate and the fact that Alvin is the seventh son of the seventh son and therefore wields powers, but any fan of fantasy knows that fate often plays a role. How many times does Gandalf speak of it in LOTR? Countless fantasy novels use similar tropes, so it didn't bother me either.

What I admired is the wonderful prose, which comes alive in terms of both voice and imagery; along with the courageous exploration of an America with an alternative history. This is a marvelous example of the dynamism of speculative fiction.

So, outside of a comical South Park episode, which basically defines Mormonism as 'dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb' Card's beliefs had no influence on my reading of this enjoyable novel.
Profile Image for Kristen.
167 reviews77 followers
September 5, 2015

I can't quite put my finger on why I didn't like this book. I read about 80 pages and just couldn't go on. I found the story to be pretty boring, and it seemed very bogged down in religion. On top of this, I found the character names to be inexcusably silly. Maybe I just don't 'get' it?

I read The Ender Quintet and Enchantment in high school, and really loved the story lines. Because of my previous positive reactions to other Orson Scott Card works, I thought that this was a no-brainer.

I wouldn't be opposed to giving this another try in the future, but as of now I'm moving on.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,830 reviews358 followers
April 25, 2016
You may have heard—O.S. Card is a Mormon. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just makes this little story a trifle more interesting, because you see, our main character Alvin goes through A LOT of the things that Joseph Smith did, growing up. Like Smith, Alvin has parents who disagreed about religion and like the Smith family, Alvin’s family practices a religious folk magic in addition to Christianity. Smith also claimed, like Alvin, to be confused about the claims of competing religious denominations, a situation which is resolved by a religious vision. In addition, Smith suffered from a bone infection in his boyhood, although presumably not from having a mill-stone fall on his leg, the scenario in Seventh Son. Interestingly, Joseph Smith had an older brother named Alvin. [For all these details of Smith’s life, I am reliant on Wikipedia—not the most reliable of sources, but not the worst either].

Add to that the alternative history aspect of the story—a North America which gets settled and governed in a radically different way (George Washington, for example, gets beheaded for treason). Here the hex signs on the Pennsylvania Dutch barns (which began as pure decoration) are used to suggest a whole practical magical system for this timeline (and the author presumes that they actually spoke Dutch rather than Deutsch). Add to that a rather odd Puritan set of names for characters (Alvin’s twin brothers Wastenot and Wantnot, for instance and his brother Calm). Somehow this odd mixture of religions does make a rather understandable system.

Seventh Son’s main character, Alvin, does suffer rather badly from “chosen one” syndrome, but as a seventh son of a seventh son, it seems he just can’t help it. He is destined to be special because seven is viewed as being such a lucky number. In addition to his birth order, Alvin is born with a caul (membrane) over his face—yet another omen of a child destined for great deeds. Card has pulled out all the stops and made Alvin into the special-est snowflake that he possibly could.

I have to say that the religiousness of the book’s characters (especially in the beginning) was a bit off-putting for me, but by about half way through I had reached some kind of stasis and was enjoying the story more. However, I found the ending rather abrupt. At least there wasn’t a cliff-hanger, but a reader wanting to know “how things end” will very obviously have to continue reading the series.

This was book number 210 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.
Profile Image for Francisca.
183 reviews83 followers
October 28, 2019
Let's start by the good things in this book:

-I like how Scott Card uses language to convey a whole place and moment in time.
-I think that, although the ending is open enough to leave important questions unanswered, there's a level of satisfaction about it that makes for a good closure (for all those, like me, who don't plan to read the whole series, more about that on the things i didn't like).
-There are glimpses of what cultural assimilation means for those who had been conquered showing the tragic reality of what displacement and genocide means, but of course as Mr. Card is not in the business of accepting that's exactly what happened in this reality based-fantasy, it's all reduce to that, glimpses.

Now about the things I didn't like:

-The portray of Native Americans as nothing else but useless drunks.
-The flimsy cover of religious indoctrination presented through the story.
-The imposture of European traditions and superstitions as the sole reality.

All that say, I must come clean and accept the book is easy to read and entertaining. It has some interesting moments and Card surely knows how to create full and well rounded characters.

Now, if you're curious about what the story is about and so on, I'm sure there are many places where you can find a nice and complete synopsis. Here I just wanted to talk about the reasons why I won't be reading anymore books in this series.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,906 reviews1,235 followers
January 29, 2012
Books about special children with magic powers being manipulated by binary forces are kind of boring. There seems to be a glut of them.

As the 18th century draws its final, decade-long gasps, America looks a lot different than our history remembers. Dutch colonies and Aboriginal nations have become states. Washington was executed for betraying his British superiors; Benjamin Franklin was (though he denied it), a “wizard”. Faith and superstition have formed a tense equilibrium that could topple given just the right sort of pressure. The frontier remains wild, for now, but civilization continues its inexorable march west.

Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son, his father also coincidentally named Alvin. He’s from a family of millers, and he is good at everything—however, he is also prone to accidents, because a malevolent force wants him dead. Unlike certain other boy prodigies, Alvin does not have a love-powered lightning bolt scar on his forehead. However, he does have a well-meaning but anonymous protector who is watching out for him, so that’s something.

I guess I was … underwhelmed by Seventh Son. The first few chapters were difficult, but once Taleswapper came in and Alvin grew up a little, the book fell into a rhythm that I enjoyed. Yet for all the interesting interactions between Taleswapper and the Miller family, between Reverend Thrower and the Visitor, between Alvin and his Shining Man, I never got the sense that the book was going anywhere. There’s conflict and a proper climax and falling action and everything that you need to make a story … but it’s a coming of age tale that never really comes of age, and that left me unsatisfied.

My apathy (or perhaps harshness) might be a result of the setting. Revolutionary America does not tickle my fancy the way Tudor England does, and while I cannot apologize for my preferences, it’s possible those who find this era fascinating will be more charitable towards alternate history about it. But I keep thinking about how Seventh Son stacks up against Ender’s Game, and while that is a battle the former could never possibly win, I think it’s useful to examine why I liked one Card book so much and disliked another (albeit not with proportional intensity).

Ender’s Game is a seductive, heartbreaking book. Card gives us a victory for humanity, but in so doing he breaks Ender in the way a child should never be broken. These are the two foci around which the ellipse of the story revolves: the moral impact of the book comes from that central question of whether Ender’s treatment (and, on the periphery, the treatment of all the children at Battle School) was justified by the threat to humanity. It’s an extremely deep yet also entertaining tale.

In contrast, Seventh Son is about a kid with magic powers who breaks his leg. It has a vast and unknowable enemy that is Satan rebranded as a force of pure, neutral destruction—the Unmaker to Alvin’s role as Maker. It sounds titanic and epic and should be awesome—and that’s just the problem. Alvin’s a boy. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He can barely decide to use his power to heal himself, the result of an admirable but perhaps misguided attempt at creating some kind of personal code of ethics. Unlike Ender’s role in his story’s larger conflict, however, I don’t sense much ambiguity over Alvin’s destiny to oppose the Unmaker. As a larger-than-life force that, in some sense, is essentially impossible to defeat, the Unmaker is an ultimate Other.

Unknowable enemies are almost as bad as crazy enemies. It’s unfortunate that Reverend Thrower seems to be going that way, because he starts the book as a fairly interesting character. I enjoyed getting inside his head and seeing his rational mind attempt to reconcile superstition, religion, and science (hopefully he understands why Newton decided to go into alchemy). Yet as the book progresses and the Unmaker seems to get more and more desperate, Thrower degenerates into a Renfield-like character with little intelligence or ambition of his own.

For what it’s worth, Seventh Son is well-written, provided you can tolerate the dialect Card throws in for good measure. There were times when I could ignore my issues with the story and simply enjoy the experience of reading this book—and that is something to write home about. In the end, though, the road Card asks us to walk is a long one, and I’m not entirely sure the destination is worth it.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 4 books571 followers
June 7, 2009
Since quantum physics (or a vague conception of it :-)) entered popular consciousness, alternate worlds have become a staple of science fiction; but the burgeoning of alternate worlds in which magic works has become a parallel movement in the fantasy genre. Judging by this first installment, Card's Tales of Alvin Maker series is a strong contribution to the latter.

Set in 1800-1810 in what would be, in our world, the Ohio and Indiana frontier, this novel describes the birth, and significant times in the young childhood, of Alvin Miller, the uniquely gifted seventh son of a seventh son, born into a frontier America in which the folk magic of our world's old superstitions actually works and plays a significant part in people's lives. But this isn't the only difference between this world and ours. Here, Oliver Cromwell lived to be 97, so England's Puritan Commonwealth never fell, while the exiled Stuarts emigrated to the Southern colonies and maintained their rule there. While the Puritans in England were able to keep their grip on New England (largely populated by their co-religionists), neither English group could dislodge the Dutch and the Swedes, or the French, from the New World --so Alvin's America is a much more polyglot and decentralized place than the real one. Canada is still a French colony here, and France is still a monarchy; there was no French Revolution, because there was no bloody American Revolution to inspire it. Instead, Ben Franklin was able to parlay the intrigues of the two English governments for influence in the middle colonies into acceptance of the peaceful formation of an independent United States as a buffer, made up of the seaboard lands between Virginia and New England and uniting the former English, Dutch and Swedish colonies --and with the Iroquois territory admitted as an Indian-ruled state. The American Compact excludes slavery, provides for religious freedom and democracy, and models an ethnic harmony that the one in our world didn't quite achieve --so Card is here depicting an America that might have been, as a model and inducement for a real one that could be.

The author's cosmology is as original as his alternate history. The universe, he posits, has a secret ultimate enemy, the Unmaker; unlike Satan, who only wants to dominate it, the Unmaker wants to annihilate everything that exists. There are similarities here to the premise of Holly Lisle's Minerva Wakes, with its cosmic struggle between the Unweaver and the human Weavers who stand against him; but Card's vision is shaped by a theistic framework. The Unmaker's human opponent is Alvin, born to be a supernaturally-powered Maker; and young Peg, the "torch," or seeress, who assisted at his birth recognizes in his endowments the "hand of power" of God.

Religion plays a significant role in the book: an important character is a clergyman, Alvin's home community centers around a church, his mother is a devout woman, and an even more important character is Bill "Taleswapper" Blake --the William Blake of our world, here an immigrant to the New World and an itinerant teller of tales, but as mystically oriented and full of yearning to be a true prophet as his real-world counterpart. Card, of course, is a Mormon, which undoubtedly influences his worldview; some reviewers have seen the series as Mormon propaganda, and it seems clear that Alvin is destined to play a role as pivotal here as Joseph Smith's in our world. But from what I've read so far, it isn't clear that Alvin's religious message will be what we know as Mormonism. The author's portrayal of some of the worst aspects of early 19th-century institutionalized religion, and of the capacity of decent people to be deceived into doing profoundly wrong things in the name of religion, comes through loud and clear; but this is a critique that can also be echoed by evangelicals, and Card's basically equalitarian treatment of women doesn't reflect traditional Mormon sexism.

The quality of the writing, the world-building and characterizations here are all top-notch. Card's dialogue and narration are leavened with humor in places (I read the book out loud to my wife, and she frequently laughed aloud at droll exchanges or comments). But there are also plenty of serious, even poignant, moments, and some beautifully lyrical prose in places. The narrative is well-paced and absorbing. All in all, it's a really impressive series beginning! Now, it's on to the second installment, Red Prophet.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.9k followers
February 11, 2010
4.5 stars. Fresh, original fantasy using the United States of the 19th century as its backdrop. This creation of a truly "American" fantasy novel was truly original and I thought made it a cut above a lot of cookie cutter fantasy stories.

Winner: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (1988)
Winner: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (1988)
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Novel (1988)
Nominee: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (1988)
Profile Image for drowningmermaid.
857 reviews39 followers
November 19, 2009
This book is a clear, fantasy parallel of the life of Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of Mormonism. If you know nothing of Joseph Smith's life, you might enjoy it as a uniquely American fantasy epic. If you are a Mormon, you will probably appreciate it even more.

But if you are like me, and know about Smith's life, but believe his church's message is false, you might find it a bit painful. I get the references, and they're very good, and overall this is certainly the most creative and artistic explanation I've come across for some of the rather troubling aspects of Mormonism.

Joseph Smith, before he had his revelation from God and began his own church, was involved in witchcraft. Particularly, getting people to pay him for his "divination" skills that would allow him to find them buried treasure. He never found any treasure, but he did make a decent supplement to his income by-- well, conning people, for which he was eventually arrested. Thoughtful, intelligent Mormons, such as Card, need an explanation for this. The most common explanation is what is seen here: Joseph Smith was involved in "white magic," a kind of light witchcraft that coexists perfectly with Christianity, and indeed expresses it better than churches do. Card creates an entire world of good magic, hexes, and light not-witchcraft, at war with the stuffy science of the Old World.

Unfortunately, for me, the simple answer will always make more sense: Smith was a quasi-religious fraud, who grew up to be a rather more successful quasi-religious fraud. Also, according to the records left by eyewitnesses, Smith's "white magic" involved animal sacrifice, circles of blood on the ground, and calling on dark spirits at midnight. That seems to cross a line.

This would have been four stars, except for the ending, where Card makes another of his hideous evangelical caricatures-- portraying traditional Christians as demon-possessed, rather lacking in discernment, and dangerous. Sorry, Orson, but these "Christians" of yours are just as bad as the miserly Jews and bumbling Negroes of centuries past, and just as revelatory of LDS prejudice against evangelicals. (Not that evangelicals don't have their own stereotypes and prejudices against Mormons.)
Profile Image for Lost Planet Airman.
1,234 reviews69 followers
June 28, 2020
Welcome to the 1800s Ohio Territory frontier, in a alternative reality where the Americas were not only a haven for religious freedom, but a haven for magical freedom as well. North American colonies have united without revolution, and the those seeking freedom to practice their "knack" push forward to the West.

Envisioned as an epic poem based in American folklore, and expanded into a seven-volume saga of Alvin Maker, seventh son of a seventh son, this is the initial story of Alvin, parents and those who come to guide and protect him.
Profile Image for Kenneth Pierce.
18 reviews3 followers
April 9, 2008
I flew through this. Immensely interesting, this is a brilliantly imagined piece of alternate history quasi-fantasy. Convoluted genre? Yes, but Card just keeps proving to me what a compelling storyteller he is. Don't expect unicorns and magical swords (thankfully), but try it and you'll find a realistic take on folk magic mixed with an alternate story of the birth of our nation that complement each other beautifully and seamlessly. Loved it.
Profile Image for V..
Author 20 books165 followers
December 14, 2012
This started well. We open with the difficult birth of our hero, so it literally begins at the beginning. But it's well written and you think okay so that's the intro, now the story.


More intro, more set up, lots of exposition and establishing of things that don't need to be established.

The writing, the premise, the characters are all fine. The historical stuff, even the made up stuff, is all well conceived and interesting.

But there's no story. It's all set up.

This books was clearly written as part of a series and has no contained story of its own, just a lot of vignettes of a boy's life as he goes from zero to about ten. And by the time I got to the end and nothing's happened it really felt like an indulgent, lazy piece of writing. Must be nice to have fans who'll let you get away with that sort of crap.

Then there's the obvious religious parallels with Christianity in general and Mormonism in particular. Christ on a bike it's clumsily handled. It starts feeling less like an adventure and more a tale of destiny. The problem with that is it gives the writer licence to just make things happen for no reason (it's the will of the Divine, don't you know) and you end up with convenient escapes from tricky situations.

Even with all that i liked the premise of an alternate America with magic and I think I would have still given it the benefit of the doubt if it had had an actual story (Star Wars is part of a series, but it doesn't end when Luke decides to leave the farm).

I also took a look at the first few chapters of the next book in the series (I really did want him to prove me wrong) but it doesn't get better it actually gets much, much worse. Going back over scenes in the first book from a different character's perspective, like it wasn't slow and tedious enough the first time.

Nice idea, poor effort.
Profile Image for Katie.
166 reviews
August 7, 2012
Having only just recently discovered the wonder that is Ender's Game and all its sequels (in my mind they have an odd kind of kinship with Dune now that I've read a few) I still thought to myself, "A fantasy? From Orson Scott Card??" Yes. Yes to this. It's so *American* in a way that other fantasy I've read is so not. Fantasy has always seemed so European (and within that mostly British) to me, but this is incredibly American, and rather Appalachian and I'm loving the series. I'm on a Card kick now and loving his prose and his deft portrayal of human nature and all the complicated thoughts and motives and vices of his characters.
Profile Image for Joey.
179 reviews
June 22, 2017
Ben Franklin is a wizard that can pull lightning out of the sky...whaaat? George Washington was beheaded for treason...whaaat? Thomas Jefferson impregnated lots and lots of slave girls...whaaat?...no wait that one is real. A story about an alternative America that was founded on religious freedom that involved a little magic mixed in. Less than spectacular and not very much excitement but well written and still interesting. There was no ending to the story. It just ran out of pages
Profile Image for Иван Иванов.
144 reviews2 followers
April 13, 2019
Омръзна ми да ��акам "Оня Скот Кард" да си допише поредицата, за да я прочета цялата наведнъж. Последната седма книга я мотае вече 16 години, с което бие всички рекорди на Дебелио Жорж (а и по собствените му признания няма да я видим скоро, защото преди това имал да пише още 2 книги за Ендър). Затова реших да подхвана каквото е издадено досега, пък майната му.

Като начало взех да си припомня първата (и единствена издадена на български) книга, "Седмият син". Хареса ми също колкото и първия път, а може би дори повече. Това е една много яка алтернативна история, в която Джордж Вашингтон е обезглавен от англичаните и не е имало Война за независимост, а щатите са поделени между англичани, французи, холандци... и индианци(?) Освен това в този свят магията е реална сила и всъщност голяма част от първата книжка е посветена на противостоянието магия-църква, което също много ме кефи. Добавяме тук и интересните персонажи, сред които Уилям Блейк в ролята на странстващ разказвач (оригинална трактовка на образа на мъдрия наставник), индиански пророци, фанатични свещеници и един разкъсван от противоречиви чувства баща. Особено ми допада главният герой Алвин, седми син на седми син, комуто е предопределено да промени света. Той не е типичното за повечето днешни фентъзита самосъжаляващо се келеме, на което основната му драма е защо никой не го харесва, така че на читателя му се приисква да му шибне един зад врата и да му каже да се стегне малко. Не, Алвин е разумен, уравновесен младеж, даже бих казал прекалено зрял за възрастта си (нещо типично за героите на Кард), който не може да не предизвика симпатиите ми.

Сюжетът на първата част, честно казано, не е кой знае колко впечатляващ - показва раждането и съзряването на Алвин (по-скоро духовно, отколкото физическо, защото в края на книгата той все още е около дeсетгодишен), разногласията му с местния свещеник и първия му, много косвен сблъсък с неговия антипод Разрушителя. Всичко това обаче е поднесено по извънредно интересен и увлекателен начин и се чете на един дъх.

Жалко е, че вероятно никога няма да видим цялата поредица на български, защото поне началото й е отвяващо. Във всеки случай стискам палци Кард да успее да я завърши както трябва, а аз междувременно продължавам на английски с "Червенокожият пророк".
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,582 reviews396 followers
September 19, 2012
Originally posted at FanLit.

"When you’re surrounded by light, how do you know whether it’s the glory of God, or the flames of Hell?"

Set in an alternate American frontier, Seventh Son is the first in Orson Scott Card’s THE TALES OF ALVIN MAKER. Alvin Miller is the seventh son of a seventh son which makes him special and potentially a very powerful healer, or “maker” — at least that’s what many who practice folk magic, believe. They know that many folk have “knacks” and they’ve seen the effects of curses and charms. It’s obvious that there’s a supernatural war going on around Alvin Miller. He’s almost been killed many times (usually by water), but it’s clear that some other force is protecting him. While his family expects greatness from Alvin, some of his neighbors think he may be “devil spawn.”
Reverend Thrower, the new Christian pastor who has just come over from Europe, finds all this folk magic to be rather creepy. He’s trying to dispel these superstitious notions while teaching his parish that any magic they think they see can be explained by scientific investigation. After interacting with Alvin’s family, he may be forced to reconsider his position. Is this folk magic superstitious nonsense, evil witchery, or a gift from God?

Seventh Son begins with an emotionally gripping scene as one child dies and another is born to the Miller family. These first few scenes make up the Hugo and Nebula nominated novella Hatrack River. The emotion doesn’t let up, the world-building and characterization are admirably complex, and there’s a nice touch of folksy humor — especially in the episodes of sibling rivalry.

I’ve heard it said that Seventh Son is loosely based on the life of Latter Day Saints prophet Joseph Smith, though I don’t know enough about Smith to notice the parallels. Orson Scott Card is known to be religious and conservative (and a member of the LDS church), but you wouldn’t know it from reading Seventh Son. Though religion is the dominant theme, Card’s religious characters are, at least on the surface, hard to sympathize with. For example, though Reverend Thrower’s intentions are good, his deeds are more evil than the deeds of the “immoral” people he opposes. It’s easy to see this from our perspective, but we can also see why Thrower thinks he’s doing the right thing. It’s a good parallel to some of the religious conflicts we see in our society today.

I’m intrigued by Card’s alternate America where familiar politics and personalities are slightly different from historical facts. This played an insignificant background role in Seventh Son, but will surely become more prominent in future volumes of THE TALES OF ALVIN MAKER. I look forward to that.

I listened to Blackstone Audio’s version of Seventh Son which was narrated by a full cast including Scott Brick, Gabrielle de Cuir, Stephen Hoye and Stefan Rudnicki. This is a superb cast who did a great job individually. The parts were split up by chapter rather than by role, so on a couple of occasions I was initially confused at the different accents used for the same character by different narrators. Included in the audiobook version is an afterword by Orson Scott Card which explains the origin of Hatrack River and Seventh Son.

Published in 1987, Seventh Son was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards and won a Locus Award. It’s a beautifully written emotional story set in an original fantasy world.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,211 reviews111 followers
February 9, 2009
Alvin Miller, Jr is the seventh son of a seventh son. He's born into an alternate version of 19th Century America--one in which the Revolutionary War hasn't happened and where folk magic is a strong, powerful and very real force.

Alvin is a maker, a strong and potentially powerful force in the world. And he's got an equally strong, unrelenting enemy, the Unmaker who stop at nothing to ensure Alvin doesn't grow up and into his power. Much of the novel looks at the efforts the Unmaker uses to try and destroy Alvin. It also examines the story of how Alvin comes to realize he has abilities and how he can and can't use them. At one point, Alvin selfishly uses some cockroaches to terrorize his sisters, leading to several fo them dying. At this point, Alvin makes a vow to not use his powers for selfish gains, a decision that becomes pivotal in the final stages of the novel.

As with "Ender's Game" the strength of Orson Scott Card's story is his ability to relate authentic, believable young characters. While not quite as complex as Ender, Alvin is still interesting and relatable while still feeling and acting like a young boy would in the circusmtances. Alvin doesn't seem to realize he has a destiny, though he does realize he has something that sets him apart from others around him.

The story is far more episodic than "Ender's Game" though. The first portion of the novel, relating the day Alvin, Jr is born was originally a short story. Card then decided to expand the universe and does so here, as we check in with Alvin at various other points in his life. It ends up feeling a bit too episodic at times and while the novel is supposed to introduce us to Alvin and his universe, I still can't help coming away feeling like the overall experience was incomplete. Alvin learns to use his powers, yes. And we know that the Unmaker is after Alvin, set to destroy him. But beyond that, nothing much really happens to Alvin, except for a number of potential attacks on him that we get to see Alvin avert. A few more happen off stage as well, referenced by various characters during the course of the story.

This feels like a long prologue to a greater saga. I know there are five other novels in the story but I found myself yearning for something a bit more substantial once the final page was turned. It's easy now that I can go out and find the next book, but I imagine those who read the story when it was first published walked away frustrated at having to wait at least a year for the next installment to hit bookstores.
Profile Image for Gise.Wen.
335 reviews26 followers
March 17, 2020
Bueno la verdad que este libro fue de los mas curioso que me a tocado leer, ya que si bien esta dentro de mis preferencias de "Fantasía" que tanto amo, pero muestra la realidad, la historia y la religión de una forma nueva para mi. Este libro fue publicado en el año que nací y el primero de la saga. Y si bien me costo mucho comprender algunas cosas ( tuve que ir a ver varias palabras entre ellas nombre de indios autóctonos de norte américa y el orden cronológico de los presidentes de este lugar) cosa que no tenia idea y que a medida que leía necesite saberlo para comprender mejor el libro ( ya que usa diminutivos para algunos) me gusto. De una forma rara ya que la historia principal de Alvin y sus dones era super interesante y muy bien construida. El autor me hiso creer en los personajes como si fueran reales y sobretodo me hiso quererlos. Tiene una excelente pluma a la hora de escribir. Pero una vez dentro del libro pude apreciarlo ya que al principio costo. Y por algunos momento me aburrió aunque lo disfrute. Y espero en algún momento terminar la saga. Por eso le doy 375 estrellas.
Profile Image for Cris.
578 reviews20 followers
July 23, 2022
This book does not end. It is the first of a series of 6. That pisses me off. After reading it I found out Alvin’s life is based on John Smith’s. That pisses me off even more. The book was interesting and had promise but the previous 2 facts prevail, thus the 3 stars.
Profile Image for Pikobooks.
334 reviews57 followers
April 17, 2020
Je prends compte des positions abjectement homophobes de l'auteur dans sa vie politique (non présentes dans cette saga) pour ne pas en faire un coup de cœur et vous avertir par ailleurs.
Je lirai la suite, puisque j'en dispose déjà, car le tome 1 était parfaitement enchanteur, énigmatique. Mais il n'aura pas mon argent.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,958 reviews823 followers
February 21, 2019
10/10. Media de los 43 libros leídos del autor : 8/10

43 obras que me he leído de Card y media de 8/10. Tela. Creo que eso lo dice todo, y liarme a hacer alabanzas de este autor-y de esta novela- es superfluo. Además El juego de Ender fue la primera novela que leí suya y caí enamorado.
Le he puesto nada menos que 10/10 a siete de sus novelas y 9/10 a otras ocho. Casi merece más la pena decir cuales de esas 43 suspenden; solo hay dos: Ruinas (Pathfinder#2) y Esperanza del venado.
Además solo otras 5 se llevarían tres estrellas. El resto, 4 o 5.
Un crack,vamos.

Este es el primero de la Saga de Alvin Maker, la primera incursión que leí suya en ¿Fantasía?. Va de una América alternativa en la que existe la magia y nace un niño, el sétimo hijo de un séptimo hijo...y es peculiar.
Amparado en unos personajes potentes Card desarrolla una historia que me atrapó desde la página 10. Por contra la saga al completo tiene bastante ramalazo proselitista mormón, más o menos encubierto.
Profile Image for Oscar.
1,893 reviews476 followers
July 14, 2017
Nos encontramos en el siglo XIX, en una Norteamérica alternativa, donde la Revolución Americana nunca existió, y el Lord Protector todavía sigue en Inglaterra. La magia existe, pero se trata de una magia asociada al folklore popular. Hay conjuros, hechizos y personas con dones, como por ejemplo las teas, que pueden leer el fuego interior, o los hidrománticos, cuyo poder domina el agua. En este entorno, será donde nazca Alvin, el séptimo hijo varón de un séptimo hijo varón, lo que le augura un destino lleno de desafíos.

'Alvin Maker: El séptimo hijo' (Alvin Maker: Seventh Son, 1987), del escritor Orson Scott Card, es un libro magnífico, con personajes llenos de vida. Se trata del primer libro de una saga de seis, y es mi favorito de todos ellos.
Profile Image for Rowroar.
4 reviews1 follower
March 10, 2019
Lettura leggera che è 95% cristianesimo e 5% ansia (la fine è sinistra come un albero spoglio sulla colletta di un cimitero, mancano i corvi). Sento che a sapere un filo di più della religione e della storia americana sia più godibile, ma l'ho trovato in ogni caso interessante. Personaggi femminili ben caratterizzati (una rarità!) e bella scrittura scorrevole; inoltre la filosofia insita non è affatto pesante come facilmente avrebbe potuto essere. È un fantasy che non è classico ma quasi e lo consiglio a chi non voglia allontanarsi troppo dal suo genere preferito pur cercando qualcosa di nuovo.
Profile Image for Olga.
323 reviews4 followers
October 16, 2020
Отличное фэнтези в альтернативной Америке. Понравилась идея, что в Европе магов и колдунов не осталось из-за казней и гонений, от которых те укрылись в Новом свете.

Единственное, это книга-затравка, когда развешаны ружья интриги, но почти всем еще только предстоит выстрелить, так что в планах продолжение.
Profile Image for JennanneJ.
890 reviews28 followers
August 24, 2020
A quick read of an alternate, magical American history. Good characters. I'm still a bit confused what the heck is going on. Already reserved books 2 & 3 at the library...
Profile Image for Jamio.
68 reviews2 followers
June 27, 2012
Seventh Son was a revelation to me when I found it for the first time as a teenager just done with the Speaker Saga and hungry for more Card. It wasn't just different from The Speaker books and the others of Card's that I had read, it was different from everything that I had ever read.

On the surface, Seventh Son is just Ender's Game revisited: a young boy on whose shoulders rests the fate of the world. That sentence could describe half of everything Card ever published. But young Alvin, the seventh son of the title, is not Ender, and comparing their stories is like comparing apples to pears: not the very same species, but belonging to the same extended family. Where Ender was a quiet, preternaturally intelligent loner, Alvin is a socially sharp, physically driven force of nature. Where Ender's world is sterile and structured, Alvin's is teeming with life and covered with dirt. Where Ender and Alvin match is where two extraordinary boys stand at the crossroads dominion versus true leadership and must make a choice.

Leaving Ender aside, Seventh Son is one of the most magical books I have ever read, and that is because it is so completely and unapologetically an American fantasy. Not that I think America is especially magical--just the opposite! Like many fantasy readers, I am both an Anglo- and Europhile, yearning passionately to be a daughter of the land of Stonehenge and King Arthur's Camelot. America seemed dead of all magic to me, especially when the fantasy books were filled with kings and queens speaking the Queen's English.

What a surprise, then, to find an American frontier in Seventh Son that was unmistakably the one from my history books, and full of magic. And not Euromagic, either, with wizards and hedge witches waving wands and chanting, but American magic. Exactly the kind of magic that would have been carried to a New World by desperate dreamers just looking for a homestead of their own. (Jumping ahead to the second book, the Native American's green magic is exactly right, too.)

And to weave this very American magic spell Card created the perfect campfire-and-moonshine, hill country, American voice as narrator. I think it's first person. If it is, it's an omniscient first person...whatever it is, it's perfect .

This book is a standard setter for me. I don't think I will ever write anything this good. It's been a while since Card has written anything this good. But, no matter that the world is not knee-deep in books like this, there only needs to be a few of them to raise humanity's average to something we can collectively be proud of.
Profile Image for Dani.
108 reviews13 followers
October 23, 2009
**Spoilers, not much though**

Nothing about this book really wow’d me or stood out enough for me to say “here friend, you’d love this book,” The selling feature of this book to me was that it was written by Orson Scott Card, which only makes the fact that it didn’t do anything for me all the more disappointing. I loved the Ender Series he wrote. I normally pick up any book by him I can find but living in my small town the book store isn’t normally stocked with much of anything but Ender’s Game. When I found this series, and for pretty cheap, I picked them all up. The writing, the style, the characters, none of them spoke to me in a way they did in Card’s other novels. When Alvin was coming into his powers or lying on his death bed I couldn’t care less about the ending. Some of the sentences are oddly constructed and can be hard to follow when you’re just trying to get in a few quick pages. The characters weren’t very ‘connectable’ and the Unmaker doesn’t even feel like a problem to me either. Very little happens and you get very little out of this book. I wouldn’t really recommend this to anyone except for Orson Scott Card fans who just want to get his whole collection of works. I’ll continue to read this series and hope it picks up but if you’re looking for a thrilling fantasy book (or even an interesting book) this isn’t the place to look.
Profile Image for Kevin King.
Author 1 book16 followers
October 5, 2012
I was very disappointed in this book. The only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is because his writing style and descriptions are interesting.
But in this book there is no plot, no clear and specific conflict. There is a vague, shadowy insinuation that some big invisible force wants to destroy everything for no particular reason, but apparently this force isn't very strong because so far all it can do is throw rocks at a little boy and miss. And the boy is supposed to stop it by weaving bug baskets out of grass. Or something.
Oh yes and water is, for no particular reason, evil. And wants to destroy everything. But it's probably not the same as the big invisible force that also wants to destroy everything. It may be, that's not really made clear. But I got the impression it's not.
And all religious people are illogical, foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics. But hexes and spells are normal, natural, healthy things.
I got to the end and felt like the story hadn't even begun yet. I have no interest in any of the characters or what happens to them, so I have no reason to continue reading the series.
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