Friday, July 25, 2014

Seventh Son

Several folks have recommended Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series to me over the past year and so I added it to my reading queue. A stack of six novels has been sitting in my library for a while now, just waiting for me to start in. However, before I could pick up the first book, I had to journey back to the genesis of this whole work, the long-style narrative poem Prentice Alvin and the No-Good Plow. A story about a young blacksmith apprentice who makes a golden plow that comes from his soul. He journeys to a far-away land, searching for just the right spot where the plow was destined to cut deep into the rich, black earth to bring life. Card had no intention to let this poem be the nexus for a long series, but his muse took over. Now a string of works stretches back some 20 years about this gifted young maker.

The first novel, Seventh Son, tells of a once prominent New England family of the early 1800s that fell on hard times. Alvin Miller took his pregnant wife Faith and his growing brood and headed west to leave their disappointment behind and to start afresh. When they were in the Ohio valley, they were set to cross a lifeless creek when a murderous storm arose out of nowhere. Faith went into labor just as the creek overran its banks and threatened to wipe out the family. That very evening, after being rescued by a group of locals, Faith gave birth to Alvin Jr., the seventh son of a seventh son. From the moment of his birth, Alvin Jr. was destined to be a creation with a special gift. However, with such a gift, come powers of darkness that seek to claim him for their own. The story follows Alvin as he grows into a fine young man and just begins to realize who he is and what his gift requires of him.

A fine story of frontier life in a young and vibrant America. The power of Card's work here is giving a sense of how special Alvin is and what is poised to slay him, without giving too much away or being heavy handed. Of course this book is not the usual science fiction or thriller fare that Card is most known for. However, a skilled writer understands his craft and the art of story and character development. Now onto the second novel in the series, Red Prophet.