The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede is a Young Adult fantasy suitable for sixth grade and up. This engaging story is set in a re-imagined wild west.
Eff is the older twin sister of Lan, the superpowerful seventh son of a seventh son in a family of magicians. That makes her the unlucky thirteenth child. Everyone, even her extended family, is on the watch for the day she "turns bad" and her magic brings disgrace on their name.
Eff's parents move their family to the Far West, just this side of the Great Barrier, a magical wall intended to keep the dangerous wild creatures on the far side of the river away from the settlers.
Patricia C. Wrede has created an alternate history of a new world where magic systems collide and melt together.
The main character, Eff, learns the difference between superstition and knowledge. With help from her brother, a good friend, and a superlative teacher, she gradually grows in power and understanding.
This novel will appeal to young adults, regardless of gender. This is the first book in a trilogy that will give readers many hours of entertainment.
The complex magical system will satisfy the most demanding fantasy readers. The situations the settlers face makes the wild west as tantalizing as ever.
The story is told by Eff, from the time she is five until she is eighteen. Her voice reminds me of Scout's from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; that is high praise indeed. The heroine is thoroughly endearing and unexpectedly funny.
Before her family moves west, she is mistreated and teased unmercifully by her cousins. She constantly hears the predictions of failure from her extended family. One uncle in particular is set against her; he urges her parents to do something about her before it's too late. The superstitious gossip and constant low expectations create Eff's struggle to accept herself and to rise above the curse of being the thirteenth child.
This book will challenge struggling readers, but on the other hand, it would make a great read-aloud book for bedtime rituals.
I highly recommend this series.