Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Thirteenth Child

Thirteenth Child

Patricia C. Wrede
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 2009   ISBN: 054503342X

From the moment she appeared in this world, Eff has been maligned. Eff is the thirteenth child in her family, and everyone knows that thirteenth children are bad news. It does not help that Eff’s twin brother is the seventh son of a seventh son. He is considered lucky, and he will surely be endowed with great magical abilities. Lan is treated like a prince, and Eff is treated like a pariah.

Eff’s parents don’t believe in all the thirteenth child nonsense, but her numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins do, and they go out of their way to make Eff feel like some kind of monster. Her Uncle Earn and Aunt Tilly even go so far as to suggest that Eff’s parents should have drowned her as soon as possible.

Wanting to give Lan a normal childhood and to take Eff away from a poisonous atmosphere, Eff’s parents decide to move. Her father is offered a job teaching in a college on the frontier and the entire family, minus the oldest children, moves to Mill City. Here at last no one knows that Eff is the thirteenth child and no one knows that Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son. The twins are able to grow up going to school, making friends, and taking magic lessons.

While Lan delights in experimenting with magic, Eff is more cautious. She cannot help worrying that her magic could go horribly wrong. What if she does turn evil, as her uncle predicted? What if she becomes a danger?

This story is set in a world that is similar to the one of the American frontier of the 1800’s, and yet different. In this world, magic is commonplace and magicians are well-respected professionals. The people of the frontier have dangers that no American in our world had to deal with; wooly mammoths, steam dragons, and spectral bears are ever present dangers. Magicians are needed to protect colonists who are trying to build new towns and settlements.

Against this backdrop, Eff tries to find her place in the world, struggling with her thirteenth child status, and trying to better understand where she fits in. Should magic be a part of her life, or should she find another path? Will she really become evil over time, or if the whole thirteenth child thing just superstition.

This is the first book in what promises to be a thrilling and highly entertaining trilogy.