Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic Series #1)

Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic Series #1)

4.1 98
by Patricia C. Wrede

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#1 NYT bestselling author Pat Wrede returns to Scholastic with an amazing new trilogy about the use of magic in the wild, wild west.

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,

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#1 NYT bestselling author Pat Wrede returns to Scholastic with an amazing new trilogy about the use of magic in the wild, wild west.

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.
With wit and wonder, Patricia Wrede creates an alternate history of westward expansion that will delight fans of both J. K. Rowling and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Set in a historical America where magic is part of daily life, Wrede's novel, first in the Frontier Magic series, follows Eff, the 13th child in her family, and the twin of a seventh son of a seventh son. This makes her twin, Lan, a "natural-born magician," while many see Eff as a curse ("If I spilled my soup, it was done apurpose... if a ball I kicked went astray... it was done deliberately in malice and spite"). Eff's family moves to the North Plains Territory where her father has been offered a professorship near the Great Barrier, the spell set up to protect the settlements from animals, magical and otherwise. Wrede (the Enchanted Forest Chronicles) creates a rich world where steam dragons seem as normal as bears, and a sympathetic character in Eff, who has been scarred by the belief that she is evil. There are hints that Eff has more power than she realizes, but the climax is slow to come and lacks the payoff readers will crave after years of Eff's meekness and playing the role as observer in her own life. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

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VOYA - Rebecca Moore
In an alternate-history North America, nearly everyone learns magic, and the perilous frontier beyond the Great Barrier Spell is full of mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, steam dragons, and the like. Not that Eff ever sees them in protected Mill City, but that is just as well, considering she was born an "unlucky" thirteenth child. Despite growing up with a loving and protective family, Eff is sure that one day she will go bad. To put off that day, she tries to control her unpredictable skills by studying different magics that teach more than one way of looking at things. When her magician father takes her beyond the Barrier to investigate a destructive beetle infestation, Eff learns just how powerful new ways of looking can be. Wrede has clearly done an immense amount of world building in preparation for the Frontier Magic series, which begins with this book. Unfortunately world building is about all that happens in this story that feels like a long setup for more exciting tales to come. Although Eff is a sympathetic character, she grows from five to eighteen with little action until the last quarter of the book. Readers will yearn for adventure beyond the Barrier—what could be more exciting than wild woolly rhinoceroses in a magical frontier America?—but Eff mostly stays in Mill City. This book will require patient readers who like their fantasies low impact. For a livelier American frontier with magic, suggest Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker series. Reviewer: Rebecca Moore
VOYA - Hannah Preisinger
Fans of Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles will snatch up Thirteenth Child, encouraged by the dragon on the cover to expect another beautifully written and lighthearted fairytale. Although the book is beautifully written and certainly has its amusing moments, the cover is deceptive; mystical creatures and magic come into the story only as a detail. The book is much more about the characters' individual lives, which, although fascinating, are not what readers will anticipate. Reviewer: Hannah Preisinger, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 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
Kirkus Reviews
Wrede is back, with a magical alternative history set in the Columbian West, some years after the Secession War. Unlucky 13th child Eff moves with her loving family-professor father, stoic mother, older siblings not yet on their own and her twin, Lan, the 14th child and the seventh son of a seventh son-to a land-grant college on the banks of the Mammoth River, along which runs the Great Barrier Magic that keeps steam dragons and other monsters safely at bay. Eff tells her tale in leisurely fashion, relating the events big and small of her growing up: Lan's advanced magic lessons, her friendship with fellow faculty child William, sister Rennie's elopement with an anti-magic Rationalist-and, perhaps most importantly, her tutoring sessions with Miss Ochiba, who teaches her not only Avrupan but also Hijero-Cathayan and Aphrikan magical techniques. The world-building is effortless, flowing naturally through Eff's conversational narration. The culminating adventure of this volume-an expedition to investigate a plague of destructive grubs-ties up Eff's coming-of-age with a frontier-style bow while leaving her poised for more adventures-many more, readers will hope. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
Children's Literature - Andrew C. Sayce
This fantastical alternative history of western settlement in America follows the education of Eff Rothmer, the thirteenth child in a family of magicians. In contrast to the lucky, super-magical birth position of her twin, Lan (the seventh son of a seventh son), the birth of Eff carries a strong connotation of bad luck in her magical world. From the time Eff is five until she reaches eighteen, we follow her path of emotional forays as she gains exposure to social prejudices and different perspectives in her world. Through all of this, Eff learns a great deal about herself and her community and grows into a powerfully self-aware young magician capable of testing her skills and senses outside of the Great Barrier Spell in the wild western frontier. Though the plot drags at times and the alternative-America often seems flat, the closing chapters of the initial installment of "Frontier Magic" make for an interesting and fast-paced read. The well-veiled social commentary found throughout the book also helps to alleviate plot and pacing deficiencies. While it is unlikely to attain the success of the "Harry Potter" or "Little House on the Prairie" series upon which it draws so heavily, the "Frontier Magic" books may provide an interesting diversion or even be useful as a fantasy text upon which an examination of conditions during the settlement of the American West could be taught in the classroom. Reviewer: Andrew C. Sayce

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Frontier Magic Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Meet 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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