Thirteenth Child by Patricia C Wrede

Set in an alternate mid-1800s, magic makes settling the frontier easier for the settlers… and much trickier, as there’s magical wildlife too.

The book is a fun combination of frontier era struggles, mores, and chores, with a magical twist. Magic proves a great way of making the unknown of the frontier powerful and dangerous feeling again. The introduction of “alternate” or subversive schools of magic was well handled–as was the was neglect that many of the characters who were skilled in (Eureopean style) magic felt towards the “lesser” schools of magic.

Our protagonist, Eff, is very well drawn. She has a realistic and nuanced set of relationships with a wide variety of people in each of the settlements and towns of the book. As soon as I finished it, I looked up the sequels and recommended it to Jennifer.

The book also ends on a solid, quite complete note–while it’s part of a trilogy, the book stands alone.

Ambassador by William Alexander

A well written fast read. Gabe Fuentes is a well written, likable, identifiable kid and the problems he encounters are immense. Honestly, the week after he meets his “aide”, he loses his family, his house, is targeted for death (and barely missed a few times), is almost stranded on the moon… it’s a pretty horrible week.

On the other hand, he takes it all in stride. He is very true to himself in his collaborative approach to the problems; he doesn’t waste time with revenge fantasies, which is awesome.

The book ends at an awkward place; the immediate threat is over, but there’s a lot of untangling to be done. For a young YA book, it might be an adequate stopping place [and good for keeping the overall length correct for a young reader], but for more mature readers it’s not a complete story.

Overall, the book features a fun, fast moving plot, a young hero in the spotlight, a sense of wonder… it just doesn’t stick the ending.

The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin is a very interesting novel that is translated so well that, other than the subject matter, I’d never have noticed.

Set in China, the first chapters are during the Cultural Revolution–when science is thrown out for its western taint. Then the action leaps to the present and engages with a familiar feeling scientist in modern Beijing. At first, the book neglects his emotional attachments–it feels like classic sci-fi, in that it’s very focused on scientific challenges and the big picture.

It’s an intriguing book, with a lot of “hmm, how would we respond if we learned we weren’t alone?” and very cool upper dimensional considerations.

King Brion’s Heir deconstructed PCs

I’m going to create the PCs as three “snap together” segments to create a complete character. The idea first came to me when planning out my Spirit of the Century game, but I realized that I’ll work well too for this–and prevent me from falling into “it should follow the novel” expectations. I’ll pass out blank character sheets and

Core Concepts

  • High Concept: The Rightful Heir
  • Trouble: Precious, but still a kid
  • Skill: Empathy +4
  • Stunt: You’d be a fool to cross me: +2 Provoke when overcoming opposition by reminding them that you’ll soon be king.
  • High Concept: Deyrni Duke (or Duchess)
  • Trouble: Reviled by the Church
  • Skill: +4 Deyrni Power
  • Stunt: +2 to Notice Deyrni Power manifestations
  • High Concept: King Brion’s Brother
  • Trouble: Obligations to the Throne
  • Skill: +4 Fight
  • Stunt: Leader of Men: +2 to Rapport with Pages, Squires, and Knights trained at Rhemuth.
  • High Concept: The King’s Confessor
  • Trouble: The Episcopate has many demands
  • Skill: +4 Rapport
  • Stunt: +2 Stealth to avoid the notice of your superiors.
  • High Concept:
  • Trouble:
  • Skill: +4
  • Stunt:

Strong Elements

  • Aspect: Deyrni Halfblood
  • Skills: Lore, Deyrni Power +3
  • Stunt:
  • Aspect: Hidden Deyrni
  • Stunt:
  • Skills: Deceive, Stealth +3
  • Aspect:
  • Stunt:
  • Skills:
  • Aspect:
  • Stunt:
  • Skills:
  • Aspect:
  • Stunt:
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