|3 out of 5 stars|
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.