Tag Archives: Orson Scott Card

The Tales of Alvin Maker

27 Feb

In the Tales of Alvin Maker series, an alternate-history view of an America that never was, Orson Scott Card postulated what the world might have been like if the Revolutionary War had never happened, and if folk magic actually worked. In Card’s books, America is divided into several provinces, with the Spanish and French still having a strong presence in the New World. The emerging scientific revolution in Europe has led many people with ‘talent’ (i.e. magical powers) to emigrate to North America, bringing their prevailing magic with them. Race and culture seem to shape the way that the abilities of people of different groups develop. For example, white Europeans have cultivated skills that we might recognize from the folklore and traditions of colonial America and western Europe; Native Americans align themselves with the rhythms of nature but also use blood to perform some of their magic; and people of African descent channel their skills into creating objects of power, in a manner somewhat similar to the beliefs and practices of voodoo. While many people in Card’s world have a limited supernatural ability, or ‘knack’ to do some task to almost perfection, Alvin Miller, who is the seventh son of a seventh son, discovers that his knack far surpasses those of everyone else. In particular, he can change both living and nonliving matter simply by force of will (hence the title ‘Maker’). This power comes at a cost, however; not only does Alvin feel a great responsibility to use his power for good, but there are forces that actively seek his demise.

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