by Orson Scott Card
This is the first book in a series called The Tales of Alvin Maker
, an alternate-history fantasy set in the American frontier of the early 1800s, from the same author who created the Ender and Earthborn series.
Though I am recommending this book, I also have some reservations, and they might as well come out now:
- Though I feel no particular love for the Puritan type of Christianity depicted in this book, as a Christian I couldnt help feeling irritated by the authors dogged depiction of Christians and their beliefs as foolish, to say the least.
- While I respect the concept of the devil having a hand in events, even while people are trying to guard against him and how they often mis-identify who is on the devils side I was a little disturbed by a good character who is indifferent as to whether his prophetic revelations come from God or the devil (except that he views God as kind of distant and ineffective).
- And although this tale takes place in an alternate reality where people have homespun knacks (magical powers), I also sensed a kinship to native American mysticism and occult spirituality that, in our reality, arent spiritually neutral but are actual religions. I come to books with an open mind, but not so wide open that I dont notice when someone is trying to manipulate my beliefs with a religious agenda.
Take my reservations or leave them, but dont write them off as simply the grumpings of a stick-in-the-mud Christian. It pains me to see any religion, Christian or otherwise, handled in the trite and cynical way Card has in this book.
My reservations aside though they were never entirely aside while I was reading it I thought this was a very entertaining book. It tells the story of a seventh son of a seventh son, born on a fateful day in the era of the young American nations westward expansion. Only its a very different America, with parts of it still loyal to the British crown, parts owing allegiance to Englands Puritan Lord Protector, and only the middle states actually united in a republican commonwealth. George Washington has been beheaded; Davey Crockett shot Aaron Burr in a duel; and a boy named Alvin Miller, thirteenth of fourteen children, arrives in the world on a day of tragedy.
Alvins birth is noted by a young girl who has the power to see the future. She becomes his protector as the boy grows up, never knowing who she is or realizing until he is ten years old that he has his own powers, and an important calling based on them. But before Alvin can begin to use his powers, he must survive attempts on his life attempts by one of the very elements of nature that has been out to get him since the day he was born attempts by the local preacher who thinks the being who visits him is an angel (hes mistaken of course) and even attempts by members of his own family, without knowing what they are doing or why.
In a suspenseful, magical, often funny, sometimes moving story full of family love and the hopes of a young nation, you meet not only Alvin but a large and colorful cast, including some historical persons playing out quite different roles from our version of history. And even though I was often irritated by the religious undercurrents in this book, I was also deeply affected by the story including a climactic scene (involving a surgery) which made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
I would like to say that I am going to read more of the Alvin Maker series, but Im not sure. While I basically liked this book, I didnt lose sleep over not having the next book in the series. To make matters worse, I went to Amazon and read what other readers had to say about the series, and in their virtually unanimous opinion, it went steadily downhill after this book. But if you find Alvin irresistable (as I almost did), you may be happy to know that at least four other books relate his adventures: Red Prophet, Prentice Alvin, Alvin Journeyman, and Heartfire.
Recommended Age: 14+
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