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9 July 2012

published by Scholastic 2010, softcover.

One of the books I’ve recently purchased is Patricia Wrede’s Across the Great Barrier. However I decided before reading that, to re-read the first in this series, THE THIRTEENTH CHILD. It could be loosely described as a weird western, in that you have the more civilized east, the wilder west, and then you have the really wild west that lies beyond the great magical barrier, which keeps the savage natural animals and the even more dangerous magical ones from the settled lands.

Eff is the thirteen child, twin to Lan who, as the seventh son of a seventh son is believed by everyone to be ‘lucky’, talented, and likely to grow up to be a great magician. Unfortunately they also believe that Eff, as a 13th child, will grow up to be wicked, dangerous, and wholly unpleasant, and many of her cousins buy into that belief, encouraged by an uncle and aunt, making Eff’s life something of a misery – until her father is offered a teaching position in the wild west and he accepts.

Where they go no one knows that Eff is a 13th child, and gradually she begins to blossom. She makes friends, learns that to be 13th isn’t necessarily to be evil, and that Lan may not be the one who has power and ability. Yes, this is a story about the wild west, about magic, and about adventure. It’s also and more importantly to my mind, a very clear message, that drumming into a child that they were born evil is an excellent way to make them so. That constant harassment and tormenting of a child can convince them, even against the evidence, that they are useless, unlucky and wicked.

I have always loved Wrede’s work and I have bought her books from the beginning. I recommend anything she’s written, but this series may be deeper in tone and in understanding of and for her characters than usual and it should win awards.

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