First of a series from Card (Ender's Game; Speaker For the Dead), set in an alternate-world frontier America (early 19th century) west of the Appalachee Mountains, where folk magic works, a stern Lord Protector still rules in Britain, and Red men live peaceably (most of the time) alongside their colonist neighbors. Young Alvin Miller, born with a caul, is the seventh son of a seventh son, and thus highly magical: he can work miracles of healing, and effortlessly manipulates stone and wood; he may even be a Maker, one able to remake the world according to his own desires (Alvin is warned in a vision, however, not to use his gifts selfishly). But there are powers in the world apparently determined to prevent Alvin from growing up: evil spirits of water, which frequently try to kill him; his own father, plagued by terrible and irrational urges to harm the the boy he loves; the Reverend Thrower, a Scottish minister convinced that Alvin is the devil's spawn; and the Unmaker, a shimmery, ill defined thing that Alvin keeps at bay by small creative acts. Still, Alvin has useful friends, among them the itinerant story-teller, Taleswapper, and an unknown benefactor who helps Alvin through long distance magic. Card has uncovered a rich vein of folklore and magic here, to which his assured handling of old-time religion and manifest love of children is admirably suited: an appealing and intriguing effort, and his best so far.