BookBrowse Reviews Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

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Thirteen Moons

by Charles Frazier

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2006, 432 pages
    Jun 2007, 422 pages

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Steeped in history, rich in insight, and filled with moments of sudden beauty; by the author of Cold Mountain. Historical Fiction

I have to admit that I didn't particularly enjoy Cold Mountain. Having read it almost 10 years ago I can't remember exactly why I took agin it, but I think it was to do with the pacing - it just seemed to take an awfully long time for anything to happen. So it was with a certain degree of trepidation that I picked up Thirteen Moons - but what a surprise, things seemed to be setting themselves up for a ripping good, action filled yarn - 12-year-old orphan boy sent out West to the Appalachian mountain region as a bound boy, finds a father figure in a Cherokee chief, becomes an honorary member of the Cherokee Nation, gets involved with the Indian wars, the Civil War, and all the politics of the time - this is good stuff! Frazier's descriptions of the fledgling Washington City, and his vignettes of the key players of the time are exceptionally well done, and his descriptions of the Cherokee Nation and the politics of the time made me realize that the situation was far more complex than I had realized - for example, many, if not most, Cherokee by that time had given up their traditional ways, some had intermarried with Europeans and taken up farming, some were landowners and a few owned slaves - indeed, in many cases the "ignorant savages" were indistinguishable from the settlers so eager to displace them.

However, my interest waned during the second half of the book, when things started to bog down - I turned the pages faster and faster, not because it was such a gripping read, but simply in the hope of finding something that would grip! Another frustration lies in the lack of clarity over what is fiction and what is real - Frazier goes out of his way to state that Thirteen Moons is entirely fictional and that those seeking historical or geographical fact should look elsewhere; but then he goes on to say that Will Cooper is not William Holland Thomas, "though they do share some DNA" - which, of course, sets any remotely inquisitive reader off to look up William Holland Thomas's life, which in so many respects follows the same path as Frazier's fictional hero - so it seems a little odd that Frazier would so determinedly claim no no factual basis when he's obviously borrowed so liberally from the life of Thomas.

However, thankfully, BookBrowse is about much more than one person's opinion (in fact, if you've been reading these ezines for a few years, you may recollect that BookBrowse's opinion was strictly absent from the ezines!), so let's hear what the big-name media reviewers have to say about it....

The reviewer for Publishers Weekly can't get enough of it, giving it the ultimate review rating of a "boxed review". The Washington Post opines that Thirteen Moons will be putting a lot of people to sleep and Library Journal writes it off as "tiresome". Interestingly, Booklist found the first quarter of the book hard going but thought it picked up pace after that when "finally, the characters are able to step out from behind this blanket of particulars and incidentals and make the story work."; and the often-critical Kirkus Reviews considers it "a great gift to all of us".

As always, you can get a feel for which side of the fence you might come down on by browsing an excerpt at BookBrowse.

This review was originally published in October 2006, and has been updated for the June 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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