Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 768
The first four volumes of the Tales of Alvin Maker present an alternate nineteenth century American frontier in which supernaturally gifted Alvin Miller sees a vision of peace and works against personal and cosmic forces in an attempt to create the Crystal City, where harmony can reign. At least two more volumes are projected in this series.
Seventh Son presents the boyhood of Alvin, seventh son of a seventh son, who knows the way Earth is knit together. During Alvin’s boyhood, his great enemy, the Unmaker, uses accidents with water to try to kill Alvin. Alvin survives the accidents, learns that he must use his gift to heal rather than for his own pleasure, and receives the earthshaking injunction to “Make all things whole.” The deceived Reverend Philadelphia Thrower, the Unmaker’s chief agent, believes he can best serve God by destroying Alvin.
When water causes a millstone to fall on Alvin’s leg, Taleswapper, a traveling collector of stories, convinces Alvin to use his powers to heal himself. The Reverend Thrower’s efforts to turn the occasion of operating on Alvin’s leg into an opportunity to kill the boy prove unsuccessful. Alvin succeeds in healing himself.
In Red Prophet, Alvin tastes the bitterness of war between Reds (Native Americans) and whites (European settlers) and sees visions of peace. Ambitious Bill Harrison gives the Reds whiskey and desires to take their land. Ta-Kumsaw resolves to heal the land by driving the white man out. Lolla-Wossiky, Ta-Kumsaw’s brother, sends Alvin visions about saving the land and, in his turn, is healed by Alvin. Lolla-Wossiky becomes the Red Prophet, calling for peace and unity.
Harrison bribes Reds to capture and torture white children so that settlers will fight the Reds. The Reds capture Alvin and his brother Measure, but Alvin’s power protects them. The Red Prophet sends Ta-Kumsaw to save Alvin. With the Red Prophet, Alvin sees a vision of the Crystal City, a place of peace he must build.
Ta-Kumsaw visits all tribes to rally them. Alvin accompanies him and repeatedly saves his life. Angry whites slaughter thousands of Reds at Tippy-Canoe and are cursed for their murders. The unified forces of Reds under Ta-Kumsaw are defeated. Having seen murder and having learned of his life’s mission to create peace, Alvin returns home.
In Prentice Alvin, Alvin’s training for his great work continues. The day Alvin arrives in Hatrack River to apprentice with Makepeace Smith, Peggy (Margaret), who has watched and loved Alvin and even used her special powers to save him from afar, leaves town without meeting him. Years pass, and Alvin learns black-smithing well. Makepeace and others become envious of his skill. In the city, Margaret becomes refined and educated, hoping for the day when she can help Alvin build the Crystal City.
The Hatrack River school board hires a teacher, Miss Margaret Larner, who gives private reading lessons to Alvin and a little mulatto boy, Arthur. The evil Reverend Thrower and Arthur’s slave-owning biological father decide to track down Arthur and return him to slavery. Alvin changes Arthur’s nature from within, so he can never be enslaved. Alvin’s apprenticeship masterpiece is a perfect plow that he turns into gold. At the moment Alvin declares his love for Margaret Larner, he realizes that she is Peggy, who has loved him through the years. Because Alvin kills a murderer, he and Margaret cannot be united.
Alvin Journeyman portrays the continuing opposition to Alvin’s attempts to teach his people principles that will enable them to create the Crystal City. This opposition almost leads to Alvin’s death. Alvin’s gifted younger brother, Calvin, envious of Alvin’s goodness and leadership, leaves to cultivate his own gifts. Margaret writes to Alvin warning him of Calvin’s treachery and leaves Hatrack River to fight slavery. Alvin goes to Hatrack River, where Makepeace Smith, filled with greed, charges Alvin with theft of the golden plow. Alvin is jailed.
Calvin makes his way to Paris and cures Napoleon’s gout in exchange for tutelage in the uses of power. Verily Cooper, a talented Scottish barrister, learns from Calvin about Alvin and goes to America to find and defend him. Daniel Webster leads the prosecution, hoping not so much for conviction as for Alvin’s murder in jail. Alvin’s enemies thus conspire against him, but Alvin’s friends come to his aid. Following lengthy legal maneuvering, testimony of false witnesses, conspiracies, betrayal, and surprises, Alvin is acquitted. Alvin and Margaret marry, and Calvin returns to America, vowing to challenge and defeat his brother.
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