Verdict: Not racist!
I read somewhere that The Thirteenth Child was racist, and it stressed me out because Patricia C. Wrede was one of my favorite authors when I was coming up, and I didn’t want her to be racist. Especially because she’s the other author besides Jane Yolen that I wrote to in my youth, and she wrote me back a really nice email telling me to keep on reading and pay close attention to the things my favorite authors were doing, and that’s how I would get to be a better writer myself (which is what I asked her how I could do).
The Thirteenth Child is about an alternate America where mammoths run free and people are magicians. Our heroine, Eff, is the thirteenth child of her family, and she believes that as a thirteenth child she’s doomed to cause some sort of catastrophe as an adult. Her twin Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, double-lucky and double-powerful, and this only increases her sense of inadequacy and danger. Eff is convinced that she will bring disaster on everyone, and so she suppresses her magic, only allowing herself to learn Aphrikan magic with her teacher, Miss Ochiba.
I enjoyed this, but not enormously, to be honest. Not much happens throughout the book, and Eff’s struggles with her feelings of danger and inadequacy aren’t interesting enough to carry the book completely by themselves. I would have liked to see more character moments with Lan and William – although they were major characters, I didn’t get a strong sense of who they were. Plus Eff had all these brothers and sisters, but she doesn’t seem to have much of a relationship with any of them, apart from Lan. I was pleased that Eff got to save the day at the end, and I am interested to see where Patricia C. Wrede is going to go with this in (I assume) future books. For instance, where are the American Indians? Do we have those? Do they play into what Wash calls “Columbian magic” and how it works? And also, what do steam dragons do exactly, and what are they so frightened of? Can there be more about William and Lan and Eff and how they all fit together?
Let me know if I missed yours!