Book Review: The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
I loved this charming, spirited story about a girl who is the “unlucky” thirteenth child of the family, while her twin brother is an auspicious seventh son of a seventh son. Growing up, Eff was treated as a pariah by the community and extended family, while her twin brother Lan was treated as a prince. Eff’s parents always defend her, but after a particularly nasty incident with an uncle, decide to relocate to the frontier where her father will be a professor at the college of magic.
Wrede created an imaginative world full of colorful characters and frontier politics. I loved the blend of old-fashioned and magical – horse and buggies and trains, old fashioned manners and values, and a community with a magical dome that protects the settlers from the wild beasts of the unsettled wilderness. I enjoyed the revisionist history too – Lewis and Clark’s failed expedition; Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin writing the Great Barrier Spell, which keeps the magical creatures such as steam dragons, swarming weasles and mammoths away from civilization.
What I like best about this book is the journey Eff takes – from frightened, disparaged and shy little girl to intelligent, honorable and self-confident young woman. The book covers her earliest recollections at age 3 or so to her early teen years. As a young child, she was told that she was evil and she worried it was true. Once removed from that toxic atmosphere, she still had doubts but began to blossom with the help of mentors like her teacher, Miss Ochiba, who practices “Aphrikan” magic; friends like William Graham; and her supportive brother Lan.
This middle grade novel reminded me of the Little House on the Prairie series mixed with J.K. Rowling – sweet, magical and with a lot of heart.
I give this book 4 STACKS!
See you in the STACKS,
Nancy – who loves books about the Wild Wild West!