Another good one today. I almost posted my second least favorite from the Wild Things Summer Reading Challenge, (Belle and the Beau -- badness second only to Betwixt), but I just couldn't bring myself to. Going instead for another of my faves from the challenge. READ IT!
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Thirteenth Child tells the story of Eff Rothmer, a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is a double-seventh child, a position of great magical power and potential. Unfortunately for Eff, the thirteenth child is said to be cursed, hazardous to those around them, and even evil. Eff is terrified that she will one day "go bad" and hurt those around her, so she tries desperately to control her magic, and possibly even rid herself of it. Eff must learn how to become her own person with her own magic, no matter what others may think.
Set in an Old West that mixes the familiar -- buggies and frock coats -- with the fantastic -- steam dragons and spectral bears -- Thirteenth manages to be completely true and now. The choices Wrede makes keep the book from being the over the top, cheesy affair it could have been in someone else's hands. She never overdoes anything or tosses in too many fantastic problems or elements. Her fantasy elements are realistic, and she always makes sure that her characters and Eff's development takes precedence. Eff's voice and narration, too, are very enjoyable, with fun little turns of phrase that pop.
I rarely say this when I read a good stand-alone, because I respect an author that doesn't milk it by turning it into a series (and often thinning it out as a result), but I really hope there's more to come.
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How brilliant is Wrede to combine the Old West with magic? She picked the perfect time frame, things were in motion, everything was changing, parts of the country were still wild and 'untamed' : what a fantastic backdrop! Stroke of brilliance, I think.
For this particular task, I was supposed to read another of Wrede's (Dealing With Dragons), but that didn't happen. I wasn't to enthused, not much of a dragon person, but after reading this, I think I'd read anything else by her. Maybe next time, Here will be Dragons...
[edit added at a later date: My Goodreads YA group had some interesting things to say about this book and some of Wrede's choices. It is a fascinating conversation, which can be found here. It begins at post 140]