Nov 23
2009

Thirteenth Child – ANSQR + Rant!!

[ Sleepy Mood: Sleepy ]
[ Currently: Dealing with a son who doesn’t want to sleep in his bed ]
With her Enchanted Forest series, Patricia C. Wrede is already a children’s fantasy star, so any book of hers is eagerly anticipated by her fans. I, however had never heard of her. (Another party I was late to.) Instead it was the plot description that drew me to this book.

The Thirteenth Child tells the story of Eff Rothmerr, appropriately, a thirteenth child. According to superstition, she doomed to bring bad luck to all those around her. Added to her pain is the fact that her twin, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means the same tradition and superstition that has handed Eff the place of pariah, has handed her brother a place of power and prestige.

EFF and Lan’s parents, aware of this contriversy, move their family to the frontier, just behind the great barrier. There Eff is away from the daily taunting of her cousins and the accusation of her aunts and uncles. But life on the frontier is not perfect and when Eff moves beyond the barrier to help investigate what a new type of magical creature is attacking settlements, she discovers how powerful her magic really is.

Excellent fantsy story that owes a great deal to Frank L. Baum and Laura Ingals Wilder. And like the works of Wilder, much of the story is focused on the mintia of Eff’s life growing up from 5 to 18. But don’t worry that the focus on chores and school will make this a boring read. In fact, good characters and pacing make this a joy to read. The author has also created a unique maguc system to go along with her fabulous storytelling.

My only criticism is that it wraps things up a little to quickly by using some Deus Ex Machina to deal with the human villain of the story, but hopefully Wrede will correct this in the other two volumes that are set to follow this one.

Rant time: This book has stirred up controversy because Wrede has deliberatly chosen not to have Native American characters. Her reasoning was that she wasn’t satisified with either of the two stereotypes that were emerging in her writing. So she chose neither.

She has been vilified for this choice by the blogosphere. And I wonder why. As I see it, this is a work of fiction. By definition that is made up. Plus it is fantasy, so expecting it to adhere to historical fact is a little ridiculous. I have seen historical fiction that has less historicity than this book. Why isn’t the blogosphere riled up about those?

Second, anyone with a passing knowledge of American History can tell you that even if there were Native Americans in Wrede’s Columbia, by the time of Eff’s family moving west (to what is essentially Missouri), many of those had either been massacred by the army, succumbed to disease or had been rounded up and shipped to reservations. A middle class girl like Eff would not have come into contact with them in any significant way. Look at the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which take place at about the same time. Where are the natives?

Third, and final, this is Wrede’s book. She can do whatever she wants with the characters. If people object to that, they should write their own book.

My take on this, ignore the fuddy-duddies who are whining that are whining in this book. This was not done out of racism. One look at the respect author Wrede has for African (she spells it differently) magic and the Rationalists(who don’t want to use magic) makes it clear that Wrede is not a flaming bigot.

Go get this book. It is worth it. It will be in the next "What to Read After Harry", which is coming as a supersized holiday spectacular in early December.

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2 Responses to Thirteenth Child – ANSQR + Rant!!

  1. Bluejay Young says:

    And plenty of Indians were not murdered or shipped off to reservations. Many managed to hang on by getting jobs and/or blending in. Some even denied they were Indians for the sake of survival.
    Those who managed to survive “Indian schools” and/or try to adapt to Anglo society were deemed to be acceptable to the general population. (viz. Jim Thorpe) There are many ways a middle class child might have encountered Indian people, but they would not have been living traditionally, they’d have assimilated or mostly assimilated.

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