Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card


FantasyPrentice Alvin by Orson Scott CardPrentice AlvinOrson Scott Card; Tor Fantasy 1989WorldCatIn this third book in the Alvin Maker series, Alvin finally makes it to Hatrack River to become an apprentice blacksmith. Makepeace Smith is angry he is a year late, saying he was cheated for the payment he made. Alvin agrees to stay until he’s 19 rather than the normal 17 when an apprenticeship should end.

Alvin is disappointed to discover that Peggy, the torch, had left Hatrick River that morning. She was supposed to help him learn how to use his gifts. He doesn’t know that all the futures she has seen involve his dismal future with her. Peggy decides to change that future by leaving. Once she’s gone, she sees a whole new group of futures for both of them. Alvin decides to keep his gifts hidden and learn to be the best blacksmith he can without them. That way he’ll always have a trade even if he can never fulfill the vision he saw in Red Prophet.

Peggy hadn’t realized how much she could learn once she was away from her childhood home. One of the first things she learns is that just because she is a torch, she doesn’t have to look into people to see all their thoughts, memories, and possible futures. She won’t lose the ability, but she can choose not to use it. That knowledge alone puts Peggy on a better path for her future. Someday she might even get back to Alvin so they can have a real relationship.

Alvin has his lessons to learn about his gifts. He rarely uses them while learning under a strict, selfish taskmaster. There are times he still uses them – to protect horses during shoeing, for example. He has to learn how to use them properly. He also has to learn how to use them for Making, the inner magical skill he needs to build the Crystal City.

Orson Scott Card gives enough history in Prentice Alvin to introduce a new reader to the Alvin Maker series. Even so, it is better to go back and read the first two instead to get a full background of Alvin Miller and Peggy Guesty.

The Alvin Maker series is set in an alternate, magic filled USA in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s in the Hio (Ohio) territory. The country grew a different way, separated into smaller territories that are slowly joining together to form one larger, united group.

Prentice Alvin follows Alvin and Peggy through his teen age years. Alvin’s coming of age happens when people were strict, slavery was legal on the south side of the Hio river, and small, disconnected towns were becoming cities within the larger United States. Peggy learns how to control her gift, become a lady, and goes to college. Alvin learns how to become a blacksmith, control his gifts, and gets book learning from the teacher who comes to town when he is 15 or so.

Card uses Prentice Alvin to further the peaceful religion he has devised for Alvin. Card also uses the novel to strike against racism. The third main character is Arthur Stuart, a runaway slave’s half white baby who is born just before Peggy leaves Hatrack River. Once he is three or so, Arthur Stuart becomes Alvin’s shadow. He is the catalyst of the Prentice Alvin, bringing together the situation needed to pull Alvin on to his next step on the journey to building the Crystal City.

While not a quick, easy read, Prentice Alvin doesn’t drag. It is a good link book, sending Alvin on the next step of his journey to become a great man of peace yet keeping him humble as to his place in the overall scheme. I wish there was more of Alvin’s life between the specific stops Card made along the way to show his growth to get a better grasp of his character. But that probably would have added another 50 to 100 pages to this novel and the series. Alvin has demons to fight in Prentice Alvin and Card handles it well.

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