When I first read the synopsis of this book, I had just finished watching the movie Seventh Son, which is about a son who was the seventh son born to a couple, meaning he is born more powerful at magic than a normal person. When I saw Thirteenth Child was also about a world where belief of seventh sons exist I was drawn in to read it. Thirteenth Child takes a look at what it is like to be not only a sibling of a double-seventh son, but the thirteenth born, who are born more unlucky than a normal person, and the double-seventh son’s twin. It sounded like it had the promise to be full of magic, adventure, and the frontier, all of which I have enjoyed in previous books.
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
Release Date: April 15th, 2009
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
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. (Goodreads)
My Bookish Thoughts:
This book included all of the elements I thought it would, but unfortunately it was not executed well. Normally, I like to read books with a continuous plotline that is followed throughout the entirety of the novel, and Thirteenth Child did not have one (in a similar way that To Kill a Mockingbird does not have one). One of the reasons this is a hindrance for me is that it results in a lack of details. When the plot jumps around as much as this one did, it is hard to get enough details to see the larger picture, or give the main characters enough depth. Take the main character, Eff, for example. I learned a lot basic facts about how she was treated by her family, her limitations on magic, and about the people she met, but I never figured out the why or how of it all. Thirteenth Child left me feeling really confused and bored every time I picked it up to read.
I did enjoy the concept. In certain ways Wrede did a pretty good job in telling her story. She had wonderful world building and it was fun to see how she integrated common United States history into her magical version of the world. Her biggest downfall was the style of writing and the flat, inconsistent characters. I think if she had written this with someone else it would have turned out well; she just needed some help with the character development and the pacing in order to make this a great read.
My last problem with this book is it did not have an official ending. She wrote half a scene and then just ended it there. I could tell Wrede meant to leave it as a cliffhanger, but it read as though it was unfinished. It frustrates me when authors do this because unlike normal cliffhangers which make a book feel somewhat finished, this type of cliffhanger leaves me feeling gypped. It gives me the impression that the author is trying to make more money by forcing me to buy the next book in order to finish the scene. I do not think this is what Wrede fully had in mind when writing the end, but it is just how I perceive endings like this one. All it needed was another page in order for the book to still have a cliffhanger yet feel complete.
I think it is safe to say I will not be continuing this series. As much as the content intrigued me, the actual execution made it dull and uninteresting. I would hope that the timeline and pacing would be slowed down in the second book since Eff is eighteen by the end of the first book and it would not fall under young adult or middle grade if it continued on with each book covering fourteen years. (I read some reviews of the other books in the series and found out that this is not the case, it still jumps around quite a bit.)
I really think that the right customer would love this book. It had a similar writing style to To Kill a Mockingbird and similar content to Little House on the Prairie. As someone who works in a bookshop, I would say if you liked these books, but also like fantasy books, you might be interested in trying Thirteenth Child.
My mom also read this and disagrees with me. She liked this book up until the ending. This is what she said, “I liked the first-person past-tense perspective from the main character, Eff. The world building was great. The characters didn’t always act consistently, but then small children normally don’t. I do agree the characters could have used some more development, which stands out more because her world is so well-thought out. It just needed a little polish. Smoother transitions would have made this a great book, but I enjoyed the novel except the abrupt ending.”
I gave this book 2.5 stars on Goodreads.
About the Reviewer:
Emma is a college student majoring in math in the city of Seattle. She also works part-time at her local bookshop. When she is not reading YA, you can find her baking, knitting, or traveling the world. You can connect with her on Goodreads.