Orson Scott Card
Alvin Journeyman (Volume 4 of the Tales of Alvin Maker)
Tor Books 1995

This is the fourth book in the tales of Alvin Maker. Beware! The review includes spoilers if you haven't read "Prentice Alvin".

Alvin returns to Vigor Church as an journeyman blacksmith with a living, golden plow. But he has also got another goal. He wants to teach people to become Makers, so that he will be able to build the Crystal City he dreams of. But things doesn't turn out exactly as he wants them to. While his older brother Measure is adapt and soon helps him teach the others, his younger brother Calvin soon becomes his enemy. Like Alvin, Calvin is the seventh son of a seventh son, and his magic is almost as strong as Alvin's. Almost, and because of that envy has gotten a hold on his heart. After almost killing Taleswapper, Calvin goes east, trying to find someone who can teach him to become a better Maker than his brother.

Some time later, Alvin too leaves Vigor Church. The reason is a rumour that Alvin is sleeping with a young girl in the village. The rumour is of course not true, but it is more than enough to turn the decent people of the village against him and make his teaching efforts futile. He decides to go back to Hatrack River - where he gets imprisoned for stealing his master's gold when doing his journeyman piece, the plow....

The long awaited fourth book in the Tales of Alvin Maker is just as good as the third. Even though a large part of the book is about the process against Alvin in Hatrack River, it is a very enjoyable book. Court sessions are, in my opinion, quite boring in movies, books and real life, but this is a rare exception. Probably because of the interesting characters involved, but also because of the magic, the setting and so on. And there is a lot more than Alvin's struggle for justice. Like Calvin's adventures in Europe. Card is still a great storyteller.

One more reflection on this book, and series. From the very beginning, I was wondering how Alvin would fit into Card's Mormon beliefs, or Joseph Smith into the fantasy America Card has created. Now I finally understand that Alvin is Joseph Smith, sort of. We are told that Alvin will die in the town where Joseph Smith was murdered, a lot of the characters have historical real world alter egos (Measure = Hyrum Smith, etc), and if we dig a little deeper, there are some striking similarities between Alvin's teachings and Mormonism. The suspicion that Card is trying to indoctrinate us with Mormonism takes away some of the pleasure of reading a good story to me, but it also gives the pleasure of trying to figure out what is going to happen and what similarities and differences there are compared to Joseph Smith and early Mormonism. And if you're not interested in religion, you can still read the book as a very good story.

Karl Henriksson

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Books by the same author:
Seventh Son
Red Prophet
Prentice Alvin

Hatrack River - The Official Web Site of Orson Scott Card

Reviews - FantasyLinks - BoardRoom - Top 5

Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.