Seventh Son or the story of Alvin Maker before jumping into this book. I knew it was some sort of fantasy adventure story set in the early days of America's history and westward expansion. What I didn't know is that this was an Alternate History story set in a world with a slightly different timeline of events as well as different notions and ideals. For example, the Revolutionary War that we know happened a bit differently in this story and there ended up being only 7 states in the new United States as well as a number of different countries created from the other colonies and territories. In addition to the different history (which I suspect may play a larger part in future books?) there is also the presence of magic and supernatural occurrences. People are said to have "knacks" which enable them to see or do different things.
Seventh Son starts by introducing us to a young "Torch", a girl named Peggy who is able to see the various "elements" of things and people, especially their heart. She is also able to see possibilities in a person's life. As such, they like to have her present when a child is born so she can look into the heart of the baby and get some sense as to the future potential of the child and where the child may need help or guidance. It is through her that we meet the title character of the book, young Alvin Miller Jr, the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Peggy sees his heart fire from a distance while still in his mother's womb and then is present at his birth and through her "knack" she saves his life during the birthing process. She sees a myriad of possible futures for him all fraught with threats and dangers but also with great potential. She sees his possible future as a "Maker", a person with a special knack to not only see or influence people or events but also to literally change and create things. As Alvin and his family move away from Peggy's family, there is a suggestion that Peggy will be a part of Alvin's life in the future.
Through this book we follow Alvin as he grows from baby until about 10 years old with most of the story focusing on him and his family once he's a 10 year old boy. They are living in a small wilderness village that is just starting to grow. A pastor from England has recently arrived and is building a church and trying to quell the superstitious beliefs in magic and "knacks." A wandering man named "Taleswapper" has arrived in town and spends the season living with the Millers and helping out. There are a number of interesting adventures that suggest perhaps Alvin's life has a greater purpose and potential than anyone knows. He is frequently in deadly situations and escapes death through some inexplicable event. There are also some supernatural occurrences in the form of visions and visitations influencing the actions of the characters.
Seventh Son is filled with a lot of interesting ideas in a unique and creative setting. I enjoy the idea of early America mixed with real magic (as opposed to the magic scares of the Salem witch trials and other events). I'm not quite sure what to make of the alternate history in terms of different political boundaries or historical events. They don't seem to add anything to the story at this point. Perhaps the alternate history will have more bearing on the future books in this 6-book series. While this isn't a high fantasy world I do enjoy and applaud Card for the creative world of magic and mysticism that he's created here. There are some cool and intriguing rules and behavior that make this a unique tale.
My only complaint is that I wanted the story to keep going. There is definitely a lot of meat in this book in terms of character, setting and general world/plot development. But I really wanted the story to go farther before this first book ended. I'm told that this book series was originally envisioned as a short story (or a shorter series of books) but as Card undertook the writing, he just felt the work explode around him and provide so much material. I don't feel like he was dragging his feet in any means but I think I wanted more to happen in this first book. Still, the overall story is fabulous and I am eagerly looking forward to continuing on to find out what happens to Alvin next. At this point I am definitely hooked.
4 out of 5 stars
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