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Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic (Quality)) Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 2010

97 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Frontier Magic Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7–9—In this alternative history, a magical barrier protects most people from the dangerous magical creatures of the Wild West. Eff is a 13th unlucky child who supposedly will cause doom and misfortune, and is twin sister to Lan, the lucky and extra-magical 7th son of a 7th son. This novel covers a lot of ground both in time, following Eff from when she's 5 until she's 18, and in distance, as Eff's family moves to the Western frontier when Eff's magic-professor father and practical mother decide that the move will hide Eff and Lan's differences. Then Lan's potential is revealed after he causes an annoying classmate to float. When he leaves to go to school back East, Eff follows her own path to learning more about magic, including assisting in caring for the magical creatures at her father's college. Her narration provides background about life in this version of early America, where magic helps with daily chores but brings its own dangers. Eff's life in Lan's shadow will ring true to all siblings of a particularly talented child, but at the conclusion it's Eff who uses her own magic to rescue her twin. Reminiscent of Orson Scott Card's "Alvin Maker" books (Tor), this is an interesting, but often slow-moving tale.—Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Patricia C. Wrede is the universally acclaimed author of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles series, including Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons, as well as other novels, including Mairelon the Magician, The Magician's Ward, and, with Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand Tour, and The Mislaid Magician. She lives in Minnesota.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Series: Frontier Magic (Quality) (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545033454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545033459
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PATRICIA C. WREDE has written many novels, including Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot and The Grand Tour coauthored with Caroline Stevermer, as well as the four books in her own series, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. She lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 21, 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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Madigan McGillicuddy on March 21, 2010
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.
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42 of 54 people found the following review helpful By D. Hurford on April 7, 2009
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.
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