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The Tales of Alvin Maker is a series of novels by Orson Scott Card that revolve around the experiences of a young man, Alvin Miller, who discovers he has incredible powers for creating and shaping things around him. It takes place in an alternate history of the American frontier in the early 19th century, to some extent based on early American folklore and superstition.
In Card's world, many people have a limited supernatural ability, or "knack" to do some task to almost perfection. Alvin Miller, who is the seventh son of a seventh son, discovers that his knack far surpasses those of everyone else. In particular, he can change both living and nonliving matter simply by force of will (hence the title "Maker"). This power comes at a cost, however; not only does Alvin feel a great responsibility to use his power for good, but there are forces that actively seek his demise.
Alvin must discover how to use his abilities, and how to apply them for good, all the while struggling to survive. Along the way, he is helped by a number of people whose knacks are not as strong, but who see in Alvin a way to use their wisdom and abilities to contribute to a greater good. There are also those who try to misguide him or exploit his abilities for their own purposes.
The stories involve a number of historical events and figures. However, history takes a number of different turns from the real world. What was historically Colonial United States is divided into a number of separate countries, including a smaller United States, with much stronger American Indian influence in its culture and society, between New England and Virginia and extending westwards to Ohio (New England itself is still a colony of a republican England where the Restoration never occurred), and a monarchy on the Eastern seaboard founded by the House of Stuart in exile. In addition, many of the historical figures are either caricatures or bear only superficial resemblance to their real world equivalents. Some of the historical figures are also accorded knacks, such as Benjamin Franklin (not a character, but repeatedly mentioned), who is said to have been a Maker, and Napoleon, who has the ability to make others adore and obey him, and to see others' great ambitions. Famous Native American Indian Figures include Tecumseh who is called Ta Kumsaw in the books. His brother Tensquatawa is also featured, as Tenskwa Tawa. The characters in the book display features similar to the two famous Native Americans, and the famous Battle of Tippecanoe which involves both brothers is also a part of the book, although it doesn't happen like the real battle. The character of Alvin also resembles the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith; some of the events in Seventh Son echo difficulties from Smith's childhood, and the Crystal City Alvin has visions of creating is similar to the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo, Illinois. Alvin has had premonitions throughout the series that indicate he may die after building the Crystal City, paralleling Smith's own death in Nauvoo.
Race also plays a large part in the stories, particularly in the way that culture shapes the abilities that people of different groups develop. "Whites" have knacks or cultivated skills that we might recognize from the folklore and traditions of colonial America and western Europe. "Reds" align themselves with the rhythms of nature but also use blood to perform some of their magic. "Blacks" channel their skills into creating objects of power, in a manner somewhat similar to the beliefs and practices of voodoo.
A recurring and main theme of the books is the conflict between Creators and Destroyers—namely, Making such as Alvin does, and Unmaking that he confronts.
The author used information of American folklore to create the world featured in these books.
Below is a partial list of historical figures who have appeared in the Alvin Maker series to date:
Characters who are mentioned, but do not appear, include: