Review of Seventh Son: Tales of Alvin Maker, Part 1 by Orson Scott Card

audiobook, hatrack river

Why I Chose this Book

After the last audiobook I listened to, which was a nonfiction book, I thought to myself “I think stories, especially fiction probably work best with audiobooks.” No surprise. I then decided to look for a fiction audiobook, either fantasy or sci-fi, on overdrive.com. I’ve listened to Orson Scott Card books before and decided to choose another one. Well, I settled on Seventh Son.

Seventh Son

Seventh Son is an alternative historical fantasy novel set in 1800s America on the frontier. Alvin Miller is the seventh son born in his family soon to have a seventh son of his own. It is fabled that the seventh son born to a seventh son will have unusually strong magical powers. On the day of his son’s birth, who would come to inherit the father’s first name, it seems as if some force wants to prevent this occurrence. Unbeknownst to him or those around him, there is also another unseen entity helping him. This is the beginning of the tale of Alvin Maker.

I found it ironic that water is portrayed as a supernatural destructive force. Typically, water is portrayed as a giver or representation of life. Why is water destructive in this reality? Why is anything the way it is, though? Why does fire burn and destroy things? We can talk about energy transfer and atoms breaking apart, but those are just the rules of our reality. Perhaps in an alternate one, with different laws of physics, fire being the building block of life and existing in abundance would make just as much logical sense. Reminds me of talk of multiple universes and the possibility of different laws of physics existing in them. I wonder if Card had some traumatizing incident with water. Anyway, I liked this choice although there seems to be more to the story.

Besides the seeming determination of water to destroy the life of Alvin Maker, there exists an entity known as the Unmaker who seeks to “unmake” everything. Alvin Maker threatens to oppose this entity’s purpose. This obviously shares some similarities to the Christian narrative: a special son with tremendous power is born with the ability to oppose the actions of an “evil one.” If that’s not enough, one character in the story states that the last maker before Alvin was the one “who turned water to wine.”

In addition to the shared similarity with Christianity, Christianity is directly addressed in this story. The mother of young Alvin, Faith, is a religious woman though the father is not. The local preacher spends a significant amount of time communicating with a mysterious being he believes to be an angel sent from The Lord, though there is contrarian evidence. Also, the number seven holds significance in Christianity, viewed as the number of completion, because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. I think it’s likely that this book is more in support of Christianity, but it could also possibly be interpreted as disputing it. The characters live in a reality in which Christianity exists, but other forces that don’t quite line up with its narrative are the ones in action. Also, to note, the seventh son concept has existed in folklore among different cultures all over the world. Could there be truth somewhere in this idea?

Conclusion

In the afterword, Card states that this was his attempt to write an American epic. He felt that other countries had their own epics, but the United States of America was lacking one. So, he set out to write one. Indeed, this story seemed to be the beginning of a promising epic.

With that said, it feels like a decently done cover of a typical plot. It smells of the hero’s journey.  I felt as if I could predict where it was going in the coming series. I may be mistaken, but either way, I’m in no rush to complete the tale. I may check out the rest of the series, but I’m not in a rush as I was with The Lost Gate. To note, Seventh Son was published years before The Lost Gate. Again, the story’s not bad, but I wasn’t compelled to quickly continue the series.

Narration

This book was narrated by Scott Brick, Gabrielle De Cuir, Stephen Hoye, and Stefan Rudnicki. It was produced by Blackstone Audio. The production was good.

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