I've greatly enjoyed Patricia Wrede's other forays into historical fantasy, so when I saw that she'd written such a book in the setting of the American West, I was all over it. The frontier setting is a favorite of mine when I can find books that handle daily life out west rather than cowboys and gunfighters. And Thirteenth Child has that in spades. It's the tale of Eff Rothmer, the thirteenth child in a family of magicians. Everyone knows that a thirteenth child is terrible bad luck, and so Eff and her family are relieved when Eff's father gets a position teaching magic at a university out west, just east of the Great Barrier, a magical barrier that keeps dangerous magical wildlife out of civilized settlements. As Eff grows up, she learns more about magic, the skills that make her special, and her place in the world around her.
This book interests me in how much time it covers. We meet Eff when she's five and her family moves out west, and the book details the years until she's eighteen. It's got a rambling pace and is very slice of life. Eff's a good narrator and an interesting character, and the supporting cast is likewise. This alternate America fascinated me, with its differently derived names and altered flow of historical events. The integration of magic is done well; it's treated realistically, as a skill anyone might learn and which is used practically for little things like housekeeping. Overall, I highly recommend this for anyone with an interest in either fantasy or historical fiction. You'll find yourself pleased on both accounts.