Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: Thirteenth Child

Thirteenth Child
by Patricia C. Wrede
Publication date: April 2009
My rating: *****

My review:

Eff and Lan Rothmer are twins, born into a family of magicians. Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, considered incredibly lucky and doubly blessed as a magician. Eff is a thirteenth child, considered unlucky and likely to turn evil someday, a fact that she is never allowed to forget by her cruel relatives. Although her parents and siblings love her and treat her with kindness, the mean words and behavior of her extended family have kept Eff believing that she is cursed. She is frightened of the horrible things she will someday do. Then her father accepts a job as a professor of magic at a college in the frontier so Eff, her parents, and siblings still at home pack up and leave the familiarity of their safe town for the perilous west where steam dragons, mammoths, and other dangerous creatures are kept at bay by a magical barrier. For Eff the move is a chance to start over where nobody knows that she is a thirteenth child. She is able to start her magical education with the help of the kind and wise Miss Ochiba and she befriends Will, the son of another professor. But Eff's fear of her curse is never far from her mind and as the settlements face the breakdown of the protective magical barrier and the threat of invasion by a mysterious new creature, Eff starts to wonder if the curse has caught up to her.

Thirteenth Child is set in an alternate United States during the westward expansion of the 1800s where magic and magicians are a common part of life and a necessity for safety in the frontier. Eff is a fantastic protagonist and I felt so bad for her at times when her relatives would treat her badly or she believed the worst about herself. Even though she has grown up with this "curse" hanging over her head, Eff is a brave and caring person. She is especially attached to her twin brother Lan, who always tries to look out for her. Lan has been placed on a pedestal not only by their family but also the others in their community who expect great things from him. He is not perfect but he really does care about his sister and he doesn't like it when he is given preferential treatment and Eff is not. Miss Ochiba is the other person that Eff is particularly close to and she is an amazing teacher who encourages Eff to see the world in a different way. It is through Miss Ochiba that Eff is able to grow up, past the negative beliefs about herself. I loved seeing such a positive portrayal of a teacher.

Thirteenth Child is more than just a story about magic. There are some important messages presented in the story about prejudice, beliefs, forgiveness and family relationships, and choosing to believe in yourself rather than listening to what others say about you. The discussion of how magic should be used and the arguments between science vs. magic (kind of reminded me of science vs. religious faith) added depth to the novel. There are also plenty of adventurous moments and even a hint at a romance in Eff's future. While there are some times that I felt that the story dragged, it has excellent world building and the novel picks up pace as it goes along. There are also a lot of characters to keep track of at first (I couldn't keep the siblings names straight!) but thankfully when the Rothmers move to the Far West, it becomes easier to remember people's names. Thirteenth Child is the first book in the Frontier Magic trilogy.


  1. This sounds like a really interesting book. This is the first time I have seen this title, so I was intrigued. I enjoyed your review and appreciate your honesty about the good and the aspects that were not to your liking. While I usually like faster paced books, it sounds like the subject matter and the themes are worth the slower pace.

  2. This looks like a very good book. Thank you for sharing your review. My poor TBR pile is bursting.

  3. OOH I like the sound of this one. Great review!


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