Thirteen Orphans

Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 19, 2010

Thirteen Orphans by Jane Lindskold

Appropriately, thirteen people attended this meeting at the Milwood Library. Our topic was Thirteen Orphans, a tale of Asian magic unleashed in the American Southwest. Three of us had read Lindskold before. All of us started the book, and ten finished it.

We all appreciated this book’s new magic system, based on mahjongg. We hadn’t seen it used before in fantasy, and we appreciated how the author had researched the game and incorporated it so well into the story.

One person liked the element of immigrants adapting their culture to their new home in America. He thought the loss of interest and knowledge in the old traditions by the third generation was realistic. He also felt the story had a good mix of younger and older characters.

We liked several of the book’s major characters. Pearl Bright, an elderly woman, was a particularly favorite. Others enjoyed Brenda, a young viewpoint character, and wanted to know more about her.

In general we found this book to be well written and flowed well.  One reader noted that the author did a good job of holding back who the main character was.

We had mixed opinions on the pacing of the book. A few people felt that the story started too slowly and did not get moving until the last hundred pages. The rest were content with the pacing and story development. One mahjongg fan in our group felt that a leisurely pace was appropriate for a leisurely game. Another got so involved with the story that when he got to this book’s cliffhanger ending, he rushed out and read its sequel.

Some of us weren’t sure of the book’s intended audience. A few of us felt that Brenda’s teen angst and the limited number of character made it feel like a Young Adult novel. Others, particularly those who’d read later books in the series, felt that it was intended for adults.

One person in our group simply had a less satisfying experience than the rest of us. He said he wished he’d read the book that others had described. He found the author’s prose style was inconsistent and just did not mesh well with his reading style. He felt there was an interesting story in the book, but it was too hard for him to find.

Another member of the group simply loved the book. She read it straight through in one holiday weekend. She was glad the story downplayed the romance element. She loved the new magic system. She found it interesting that the opposing forces did not want to kill each other, but just take their powers. She found the book thoroughly entertaining and plans to read the next installment.

After the meeting, many of us had a nice dinner at Opal Divine’s.

–A.T. Campbell, III