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Thirteenth Child: "Little House on The Prarie" WITH MAGIC!
Eff Rothmer is the thirteenth child born to her parents. In her world (which resembles 19th century America, only with magic) this means that she is believed to be naturally unlucky and possibly destined to become evil, leading to her being tormented even by her own relatives. However, she is protected by her immediate family, who doesn't hold with such nonsense, and in particular her twin brother Lan, the seventh son of a seventh son who himself is destined to be a great magician.
However, this conflict becomes moot quickly, as Eff's father, a college professor of magic, gets a job teaching in Mill City, a town just east of the magical barrier which prevents the more dangerous magical creatures from interfering in human settlements. Here Eff grows up, all the while trying to deal with her own insecurity regarding her magical powers.
This book doesn't have a strong plot per se, mostly being taken up with picaresque incidents in Eff's life as she grows up and tries to deal with her concerns that she may cause misfortune to happen to her family. I also found that this particular element of the story had a tendency to drag, as Eff continues to be insecure over her status long after multiple characters have told her not to be.
However, Eff as a viewpoint character is great, with a funny and distinctive voice that is colored by her distinct opinions on everything. Eff as a narrator leaped off the page, and I read on at least partially because I wanted to hear more from her.
The setting is interesting. Apparently, the history of 19th century America went along as it did in real life, only the addition of magic has made settlement west of the Mississippi rarer (part of the job of the college where Eff's father teaches is to train magicians to cast spells to fend off dangerous magical beasts that attack settlements not protected by the giant magical barrier). It is also a more ethnically diverse nation, with frequent mention of Asian and African communities existing elsewhere (although we only meet two black characters and no Asian ones, at least in this book). I also liked how European, African, and Asian magic worked in distinctly different ways, and how the rules of magic for each differed but were able to fit together in the same story.
I feel that Patricia C. Wrede does a good job here at creating an interesting world and narrator character to describe it. This is apparently the first book in a series ("Frontier Magic") that has at least two other books in it. I look forward to reading them as well soon. Definitely check this book out if you run into it