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Thirteenth Child Paperback – 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: New York, NY: Scholastic Press; 1st Edition edition (2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545200261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545200264
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,350,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 6 2009
Format: Hardcover
If Diana Wynne-Jones and Laura Ingalls Wilder had ever collaborated on a book, it might have turned out something like "Thirteenth Child."

Specifically, Patricia C Wrede's latest book is a unique fantasy set in an alternate world where dragons, mammoths and stray patches of magic stream across the United States (here called "Columbia"). While Wrede doesn't fully flesh out her cast or her alternate history, "Thirteenth Child" is a solid little merge of wagons-and-cabins frontier stories and exceptional magic.

Lan was born a seventh son of a seventh son, a natural for magic. But his sister Eff was born a thirteenth child, which popular superstition says will inevitably be evil and bring bad luck -- and her relatives take every chance to torment her about it.

Fortunately their parents decide to move all the children still living with them out west, to a small university. Over the years, Eff has problems other than her status as a "thirteenth" -- the Rationalists, who avoid all magic; the steam dragons that fly overhead; and some nasty encounters with fellow students. And Eff starts learning from the kindly Miss Ochiba, who introduces her to Aphrikan and Hijero-Cathayan magic.

But Eff's family is thrown into chaos when one of her sisters causes a massive scandal. And when a strange plague of grubs and insects (which once destroyed an entire settler town) threaten to destroy all the settlements in the west, Eff accompanies a research team to the Rationalist town. But not only are the insects all over the place, they seem to be impossible to eradicate with magic. Can a thirteenth child hope to save the settlements?
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Format: Hardcover
Eff was born the thirteenth child. She grew up hearing stories about how the "Thirteenth Child" is supposed to have great talent but bring great danger and despair to everyone around her.

Her twin, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son, or a double-seven, and is supposed to have great magical talent, in a good way, and luck that makes everyone in awe of him.

This story tells of their growing up, from Eff's point of view, and the challenges they face.

This story started off really well. I loved reading about Eff, Lan, and their magic. I liked reading about how they grew up and how much magic was involved in their lives. But then towards the end it started talking about these bugs that sucked up the magic, and that was the whole plot of the story at the end.

It kind of turned me off to the story, but overall it was well-written and something different in the YA fantasy world.

Reviewed by: Andrea
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 88 reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Seventh son and thirteenth child May 21 2009
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If Diana Wynne-Jones and Laura Ingalls Wilder had ever collaborated on a book, it might have turned out something like "Thirteenth Child."

Specifically, Patricia C Wrede's latest book is a unique fantasy set in an alternate world where dragons, mammoths and stray patches of magic stream across the United States (here called "Columbia"). While Wrede doesn't fully flesh out her cast or her alternate history, "Thirteenth Child" is a solid little merge of wagons-and-cabins frontier stories and exceptional magic.

Lan was born a seventh son of a seventh son, a natural for magic. But his sister Eff was born a thirteenth child, which popular superstition says will inevitably be evil and bring bad luck -- and her relatives take every chance to torment her about it.

Fortunately their parents decide to move all the children still living with them out west, to a small university. Over the years, Eff has problems other than her status as a "thirteenth" -- the Rationalists, who avoid all magic; the steam dragons that fly overhead; and some nasty encounters with fellow students. And Eff starts learning from the kindly Miss Ochiba, who introduces her to Aphrikan and Hijero-Cathayan magic.

But Eff's family is thrown into chaos when one of her sisters causes a massive scandal. And when a strange plague of grubs and insects (which once destroyed an entire settler town) threaten to destroy all the settlements in the west, Eff accompanies a research team to the Rationalist town. But not only are the insects all over the place, they seem to be impossible to eradicate with magic. Can a thirteenth child hope to save the settlements?

The biggest problem with "Thirteenth Child" is that Patricia C Wrede's imagination is bigger than her book -- she creates an epic alternate history full of strange creatures and different spins on American history, and a sprawling magically-gifted clan with fourteen kids and countless other relatives. But she ends up not quite having enough time to fully develop either her history or her fictional family -- especially the latter, since I had trouble keeping track of all Eff's siblings.

Thankfully, that problem doesn't sink "Thirteenth Child," mainly because Wrede is talented enough to keep a sprawling frontier tale intertwined with Eff's personal story. This book is full of solid steady writing and period anecdotes, often with the problems (like rheumatic fever) and experiences (spelling bees, dances, small schools) that settlers would have had. Her style that sounds both earthy ("the grass dried out hard and sharp as pins") and exquisite ("its silver snake body trailing steam...").

And despite being patchy, her vision of the western frontier is a colourful one -- a Great Barrier that tries to keep back weird creatures like sabertoothed tigers, steam dragons, mammoths and woolly rhinos. Not to mention the creepy grubs and mirror bugs. At the same time she explores Eff's formative years right up to adulthood, as well as her family's personal woes and problems.

And Wrede clearly gave plenty of thought to her magical world, whether it's the different brands of magic or the possible effects that NOT using magic might have on a person. It would be interesting to see where she takes this next, since the ending is left wide open for a sequel.

Though she mopes too much about her thirteenhood, Eff comes across as a likable underdog who slowly gains confidence and strength throughout the story, while her buddy (and potential love interest) William starts off rather prickly but soon becomes a sensible counterpoint to Eff. And Lan is an excellent blend of overconfidence mingled with protectiveness -- this guy would be totally unbearable if he weren't so devoted to his sister.

"Thirteenth Child" has a few flaws, but the story itself is a solid Little-House-on-the-Prairie tale set in a magical world. And it leaves you wondering what Eff might do next.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Controversial? March 21 2010
By Madigan McGillicuddy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Set in an alternate historical, magical America, young Eff is an unlucky thirteenth child. Her twin brother Lan, on the other hand, is the seventh son of a seventh son -- destined for greatness. She and most of her immediate family move away from Helvan Shores for a fresh start on the magical frontier after her extended family refuse to stop harassing her for her supposed bad luck.

I had heard a lot about the controversy surrounding Wrede's alternative history frontier fantasy before I read it, so I settled down to read this book with some trepidation, even though I dearly love Patricia Wrede. Because her new Frontier Magic series takes place in an alternate American history, one where the United States never had a Native American population, many readers and critics were troubled. It seems deeply insensitive to eradicate a group of people who have already been through so much. And yet, reading the book, didn't feel as overwhelmingly uncomfortable as I would have thought. I'm also a fan of Joss Whedon's Firefly, a science-fiction/Wild West type show, and I have to admit, the lack of Native Americans on that show never bothered me. It was unclear to me, reading Wrede's book, if slavery had ever existed in her alternate history. While Aphrikan people (and their magic) seem to be a rare minority, no further backstory is given.

I liked the idea of frontierspeople struggling to hold their own against magical creatures; mammoths, dragons, enchanted beetles. Magic, in this world, is commonplace and everyday. The Wild West twang to the character's speech added depth to the story.

Eff's continual low self-esteem became a bit wearing as the story went on. She is just as worried at age eighteen about inadvertently causing bad luck to befall her family and loved ones as she was at age five, when her maliciously bad-tempered extended family went so far as to outright suggest that her parents do away with her. Some of the terms like Mammoth River (for the Mississippi) or Columbia (for America) being thrown together with place names such as Philadelphia threw me a bit. I wish that this had been set in a completely new world altogether, kind of like Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword.

I was fascinated with the Rationalists, Puritan-like settlers who eschew magic entirely. I was really rooting for them, especially after seeing how callously many of the magicians in the story treated Eff. Eff's older sister Rennie elopes with one of the Rationalists and her encampment is one of the only ones resistant to a particularly nasty strain of magical locust-like mirror bugs. So, I was disappointed when Eff finally has the chance to visit them and Rennie breaks down, admitting that life without magic is very, very hard -- so much so, that she's resorted to sneaking in a spell or two to make her hardscrabble life a bit easier.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book, and I'll definitely put it in the hands of young fantasy readers who enjoyed Wrede's Sorcery and Cecilia series, or the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I'm curious how this book would fare as book club material; there are so many different themes at play to provide fodder for discussion.
40 of 52 people found the following review helpful
The Magical Frontier April 7 2009
By D. Hurford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Francis (nicknamed Eff) was born the 13th of 14 children. While her twin brother Lan (#14) is lauded for his potential as a natural magician (he is the 7th son of a 7th son), Eff is tormented and told that she'll turn evil. After her Uncle Earn tries to get her arrested for supposedly cursing his house when she was 4 years old, Eff's father decides to accept a University position (Magic instructor) out west to get both children away from the harmful influence on both twins; falsely glorifying one child, while falsely belittling the other.

Eff's mother puts it best: "I can see plain enough that an angel straight from heaven itself would grow up crooked if she was watched and chivvied and told every morning and every night that she was sure to turn evil, and I can see equally plain that fussing and fawning over a child that hasn't even learned his numbers yet, as if he were a prince of power and wisdom, will only grow him into a swell-headed, stuck-up scarecrow of a man, who like as not will never know good advice when he hears it, nor think to ask for it when he needs it."

Eff's family moves to the North Plains Territory east of the Great Barrier. The Great Barrier is a magical barrier that keeps creatures like Mammoths, woolly rhinoceri, swarming weasels and spectral bears on the west side of the barrier.

The oldest of Eff's siblings stay in the east (either to marry or go to University) and for the first few years in the new territory, no one mentions that Lan is the 7th son of a 7th son or that Eff is a 13th child.

Eff's first 4 years of life made an indelible impression and she is convinced that someday she will go bad. It preys on her conscience and finally she confesses to her magical teacher, Miss Ochiba. Miss Ochiba teaches the students to look at ordinary things in multiple ways and points out that Eff is also a 7th daughter, the first born of twins, and many other things besides a 13th child.

When strange creatures start to overwhelm settlers west of the Great Barrier, a 13th child may be the only one to see the solution.

>>>>>>
I've been anticipating this book since I first heard Ms. Wrede give a reading last August and "The Thirteenth Child" doesn't disappoint. Ms. Wrede's world-building is complete with an alternate history (Lewis and Clark never made it back from their expedition), and has that sense of adventure that the frontiersmen had when they explored the west. From different theories of magic to people who don't believe in using magic at all, the world Eff lives in has a depth and complexity worth exploring.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A great ride Dec 20 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How the west was won - with magic. I loved this book. We had here a complciated character who had a central problem to get over, and struggled with it. The first person perspective was also executed well, without any slips into other heads or out of character chepters. Eff's point of view remained fresh trhougout, and I for one could not wait to see her to concur her fears and blossom into the power that she obviously possessed.

The only down side is how long I'll have to wait for book two.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Anticlimactic . . . May 18 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have read and enjoyed as many of Patricia Wrede's books that I can get my hands on. Many I have bought and read over and over again. So I was very excited to read this new offering from a favorite author. Unfortunately, this book was not up to the standard of her others. The characters were not as well-developed or as interesting. You felt somewhat vested in what happened to Eff, the main character, but she had nowhere near the personality of Kate or Cecilia ("Sorcery and Cecilia") or even of Kim ("Mareilon the Magician"). The story itself was an ongoing narrative of Eff's growing older. The problem is, I kept waiting for something to happen, it felt like something was going to happen, but nothing ever did. The end did have a larger "event" but even that was anti-climactic. I also expected some sort of resolution of the character's lives, which did not come. The parts of the book that went into magic were extremely confusing and hard to relate back to the story. I'm sad to give this such a mediocre review, but maybe Wrede will give us something a little better next time?

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