Review: The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Saturday, March 2, 2013
Title: The Thirteenth Child
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Series: Frontier Magic #1
Pages: 352 (paperback)
Published: April 2009
Source: bought
Rating: 2/5

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.

Reviewed by Danielle.

As a long time reader of Patricia Wrede's work, I have to say I was disappointed. There's no humor like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles or the Cecelia and Kate series, but there's also really no spirit of adventure like the Lyra books. Overall, Thirteenth Child is flat and depressing.

I had high hopes for the book. A low/alternate fantasy set not in medieval or Victorian England? Sign me up. Unfortunately, the world building was confusing and messy. All of the countries and continents have been renamed, but somehow George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are all a)born, b)given the same names, and c)found a new country, but except this time, they're wizards?

But the most disappointing thing of all is Wrede's take on Native Americans. That is to say, there aren't any. She's quoted as saying:

"The *plan* is for it to be a "settling the frontier" book, only without Indians (because I really hate both the older Indians-as-savages viewpoint that was common in that sort of book, *and* the modern Indians-as-gentle-ecologists viewpoint that seems to be so popular lately, and this seems the best way of eliminating the problem, plus it'll let me play with all sorts of cool megafauna). . . ."

Nope, not OK. Not even a little. I also had a problem with how the African-American characters were portrayed. They fit too easily into the "Magical Negro" trope.

I did like the magic system and how fleshed out it was. Eff, once she grew up, was an interesting character with goals and skills beyond magic. I realized as soon as the bugs were introduced, they ate magic. It was pleasing that it didn't take the characters hundreds of pages to also realize that.

Overall, I don't think I'll read the second, because the story didn't really hook me, but more importantly, because I can't support something so unthinkingly racist. 

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting review. I almost want to check it out just for the fleshed out magic system, but hesitate due to the other reasons. . . either way, thanks for sharing the review!


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