A note on the new review format: Most of you will know that I recently took a month-plus long hiatus on posting. I’ll admit that I’ve been overwhelmed with work, both voluntary (rewriting my novel) and forced upon me (a ten-page research paper). Now that things have cleared up somewhat, I’m ready to keep blogging, but I’m toning down my standard review format to make the reviews easier both to read and write. It’s the new way to get a book review without slogging through the five-paragraph essays I usually put up. I’ll be using a publisher-provided summary–indicated by the quote block– and the reviews should, overall, be shorter. You’ll also noticed that the post titles are simply the title and author of the book in question now, to be easier to locate. I’m calling the new format “Here’s To Us Book Blurbs.” Be sure to let me know what you think!
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede (Frontier Magic Series #1)
May 2010, Scholastic, Inc.
Young Adult fantasy
Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means he’s supposed to possess amazing talent — and she’s supposed to bring only bad things to her family and her town. Undeterred, her family moves to the frontier, where her father will be a professor of magic at a school perilously close to the magical divide that separates settlers from the beasts of the wild.
With wit and wonder, Patricia Wrede creates an alternate history of westward expansion that will delight fans of both J. K. Rowling and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Well, Mr. /Ms. Publisher Summary Writer, I beg to differ. I’m a massive fan of J.K. Rowling, and I’m afraid this didn’t “delight” me– quite the opposite, actually. I was pretty excited going in to this book. I’ve discovered the wonders of American history blended with fantasy, ala Shannon Hale’s graphic novels, Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack. I was hoping to get the same sort of concoction of humor, action, and a healthy dose of magic out of Thirteenth Child. I was even hoping for a frightening element, given the cover font. I was severely let down on all fronts.
This book was very difficult to get into, and my patience was never rewarded. I felt like I was constantly trying to catch up with the story, getting all of the tidbits of history and geography straight whilst-and-at-the-same-time trying to figure out how old Eff and Lan currently were. A year of more could pass by in a single chapter– Thirteenth Child spans Eff’s life from practically birth to young adulthood. This is quite a feat for a book of any size, let alone a small one like this, and Wrede, unfortunately, doesn’t manage to pull it off.
The world-building in Thirteenth Child is weak, all characters, including Eff, poorly drawn, and the action virtually nonexistent. This version of America is artlessly altered from the actual. This book’s only virtue is the one instance of folksy humor: the “expedition ladies,” a group of mostly high school girls bent on attracting the attentions of the dashing young men going on the missions to the West.
In Thirteenth Child, Wrede tries her best to mold the American West with enchantment, to little effect. Oddly enough, this is perfectly mirrored in the series’ moniker: “Frontier Magic.” It is eye-roll inducing and neither artful nor enjoyable.
Rating: One Star