The Alvin that starts this novel, isn't the eponymous Alvin. The novel starts with Alvin Miller – a father moving west with his family. Moving west to start a new life with his family. His wife, Faith, and his (many) sons and daughters. Faith is heavily pregnant with their seventh son – which connects with the clue of the book's title quite nicely. Faith gives birth en-route, to their seventh son – Alvin. In this world seventh sons are special, the seventh son of a seventh son even more so. This world is, of course, [a:Orson Scott Card|589|Orson Scott Card|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1294099952p2/589.jpg]'s fantasy/alternative-history tale set in the American frontier world of the early 19th century.
Better known for his science-fiction stories such as [b:Ender's Game|375802|Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)|Orson Scott Card|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316636769s/375802.jpg|2422333], this is not only a change of genre, but a much more obvious attempt to create a trilogy than the first two Ender series books were. This first one, definitely, reads more like a prequel than a first novel. Instead of anything close to action happening, we are treated to a well-written novel of top-class world-building. Everything is explained – how Alvin Junior is born as the seventh son, the detailed relationships within the Miller family, we are introduced to Knacks (the magic of Card's world), the politics (both across the states, but also the politics between the white man and red), the struggle between Christianity and the superstition of knacks – the dynamic between the family and the Reverend Thrower is especially enjoyable, how the Unmaker is trying to kill Alvin for some reason, and how Alvin somehow keeps escaping these attempts. All very cleverly presented to us both in real-time, and as exposition through the presence of the stranger Taleswapper.
Yet, though nothing really happens, this is Card writing as well as you remember – there are no carbon-cutout characters and while some secrets are kept for the later books, everything that happens in the book makes sense within the world he has crafted. It would have been worth another point though if more had happened. Don't let the rating suggest that this isn't an enjoyable book to read, it's just that when you get to the end, you realise that it was clearly written to set up the action that is (hopefully) coming in the later novels.
I'd read this and [b:Red Prophet|1930959|Red Prophet (Tales of Alvin Maker, #2)|Orson Scott Card|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1212068078s/1930959.jpg|98069] back in the early nineties when I was at University, but having ordered the third book, [b:Prentice Alvin|293719|Prentice Alvin (Tales of Alvin Maker, #3)|Orson Scott Card|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1173468674s/293719.jpg|2589269] recently, I realised that I had pretty much no recollection of the events of the first two books. So, I decided to re-read them both first. I wouldn't say that this story came flooding back to me as I read it, but I had a feeling of familiarity. In a way, I kinda liked it this way; the story didn't feel spoiled for me as I read it again.