45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
The first book of The Tales of Alvin Maker, a slow opening,
This review is from: Seventh Son (Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
The first book in Orson Scott Card's "Tales of Alvin Maker" series, SEVENTH SON introduces the reader to a remarkable alternate history in which early 19th-centrury America looks much different than our own and folk magic is real.
The novel opens with the tumultuous birth of Alvin Miller, a seventh son of a seventh son, as his family moves through Ohio hoping to start a better life in frontier territory. Alvin's heritage means he'll have great powers, and even from the start it becomes apparent that some force is moving against him. Through this slim first novel, we are acquainted with Alvin's boyhood and the world in which he lives, where hexes and beseechings are commonplace and actually work.
Card's alternate history is one in which the Restoration never happened in England, leaving the Puritans in power there and resulting in a very different America. The Stuart dynasty is in exile in the Southeast, New England is still run by fundamentalist Pilgrims, and the United States consists of only a few key states between. West of this, in what in our world would be Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, is the frontier where Alvin grows up.
SEVENTH SON is a very light opening to The Tales of Alvin Maker, and the action begins really from the second book, RED PROPHET, in which Alvin's destiny is revealed. Card gives one just enough here to see if it's right for the reader. For myself, I found Card's setting so fascinating that I went on to the rest of the series. I give the book only three stars for two reasons. One was I didn't like the fact that he made the first book so insubstantial compared to the subsequent novels. The second is that while the series is very good, Card's strength is his ideas, not his writing. His prose is clunky, especially when he tries his "aw, shucks" narrative voice. While I would indeed recommend SEVENTH SON to those who like the concept of an alternate America, The Tales of Alvin Maker is not destined for great literature.
Incidentally, The Tales of Alvin Maker is much like another series Card was working on at the same time, the Homecoming books. Both series include Mormon allegory, child protagonists, and the series even touch on one another with the same mystical dream figuring in both. I'd recommend that series if one enjoys The Tales of Alvin Maker.