I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
From the author of Ender's Game, an unforgettable story about young Alvin Maker: the seventh son of a seventh son. Born into an alternative frontier America where life is hard and folk magic is real, Alvin is gifted with the power. He must learn to use his gift wisely. But dark forces are arrayed against Alvin, and only a young girl with second sight can protect him.
You may have heard—O.S. Card is a Mormon. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just makes this little story a trifle more interesting, because you see, our main character Alvin goes through A LOT of the things that Joseph Smith did, growing up. Like Smith, Alvin has parents who disagreed about religion and like the Smith family, Alvin’s family practices a religious folk magic in addition to Christianity. Smith also claimed, like Alvin, to be confused about the claims of competing religious
denominations, a situation which is resolved by a religious vision. In addition, Smith suffered from a bone infection in his boyhood, although presumably not from having a mill-stone fall on his leg, the scenario in Seventh Son. Interestingly, Joseph Smith had an older brother named Alvin. [For all these details of Smith’s life, I am reliant on Wikipedia—not the most reliable of sources, but not the worst either].
Add to that the alternative history aspect of the story—a North America which gets settled and governed in a radically different way (George Washington, for example, gets beheaded for treason). Here the hex signs on the Pennsylvania Dutch barns (which began as pure decoration) are used to suggest a whole practical magical system for this timeline (and the author presumes that they actually spoke Dutch rather than Deutsch). Add to that a rather odd Puritan set of names for characters (Alvin’s twin brothers Wastenot and Wantnot, for instance and his brother Calm). Somehow this odd mixture of religions does make a rather understandable system.
Seventh Son’s main character, Alvin, does suffer rather badly from “chosen one” syndrome, but as a seventh son of a seventh son, it seems he just can’t help it. He is destined to be special because seven is viewed as being such a lucky number. In addition to his birth order, Alvin is born with a caul (membrane) over his face—yet another omen of a child destined for great deeds. Card has pulled out all the stops and made Alvin into the special-est snowflake that he possibly could.
I have to say that the religiousness of the book’s characters (especially in the beginning) was a bit off-putting for me, but by about half way through I had reached some kind of stasis and was enjoying the story more. However, I found the ending rather abrupt. At least there wasn’t a cliff-hanger, but a reader wanting to know “how things end” will very obviously have to continue reading the series.
This was book number 210 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.