Friday, April 19, 2013

"Alvin Journeyman" Plot Summary


Looking for something new to read? Here's a short summary of Alvin Journeyman. See if you'd be interested in it...

Author: Orson Scott Card

Summary by Steve Wilson


Plot summary:

Alvin’s little brother, Calvin, also a seventh son of a seventh son, is jealous of the attention Alvin is getting. After attacking Tale Swapper when TS challenges his cruelty to a bug, Calvin leaves home and vows to return only when he is a strong enough Maker to challenge Alvin.

Peggy, unable to bear the guilt she feels at home for her mother’s death, travels Appalachia, spreading support for the abolition of slavery. On her journey, she is drawn to Becca the Weaver’s house. Becca lives with her sister, two nieces, and nephew. The Weaver encourages Peggy to look after Alvin and Calvin. She also shares that Tecumseh is still alive and visits her every day via a portal in the house. Peggy sends a letter to Alvin, warning him to leave Vigor Church before he’s forced to leave, but doesn’t give him any details of what might happen. Tale Swapper also encourages Alvin to leave so that he can start learning how to build the Crystal City.

Alvin, however, wants to stay with his family and to keep teaching the people of the town how to be Makers. He holds classes for anyone who wants to attend every day. Meanwhile, Calvin ends up in New Amsterdam. He’s looking for someone to teach him how to be a Maker. He hears that the former Governor Harrison is a beggar in town still under the Prophet’s curse of having to tell a new person the story of how he caused the slaughter of the Prophet’s people or else his hands will be covered in blood. Calvin tells him that he should blame Alvin for the curse and just let the blood come. Calvin then uses his knack to make an English ship leak and become infested with rats. He tells Captain _ that he’ll make sure the ship doesn’t leak again if he will give him free passage to France and teach him how to act like a gentleman. Calvin’s goal is to meet Napoleon, the most powerful man in the world at the moment. The captain knows Calvin caused the leak in the first place, but agrees to the arrangement for the challenge of teaching Calvin.

Peggy hears Governor Harrison giving a speech. He’s running for President and using his bloody hands to show voters how evil the “red men” are. Peggy can see with her ability that Harrison will become President and will do much to oppress native Americans and expand slavery to the North. She wants to kill him right there, but doesn’t have a gun, and isn’t the kind of person to do it even if she did. Back in Vigor Church, teenager Amy Sump has a crush on Alvin and begins telling stories about Alvin slept with her. To avoid marrying her or facing a lawsuit, Alvin leaves. This is what forces him to go. Arthur Stuart goes with him.

Years ago, in England, Arise and Wept Cooper had a son named Verily. He had a knack for seeing how things fit together and his parents thought he was a witch. Verily learned how to hide his knack until he graduated from law school, disowned his parents, and started to become a famous lawyer and arbiter because of his power. He didn’t just see how things fit together, but people and solutions as well. One day, Verily was at a dinner party given by a politician and he met Calvin. Verily was curious about America because he had heard that people there could use knacks more openly without being accused as a witch. Verily could see Calvin was not of a good character, but got some information about Alvin from him and decided to travel to America and track him down.

Alvin takes Arthur back to the Hatrack River for a visit and is arrested as soon as Make Peace Smith hears he’s in town. Make Peace is charging him with theft for stealing the gold used to make Alvin’s plow. The Sherriff is obligated to put Alvin in jail until the matter can be solved. One of the citizens of the town is Vilate Harker, the new postmaster, who is wearing hexes to make herself look younger and prettier. Despite having a bad reputation in town of being a gossip, she becomes friends with Alvin and Arthur. She visits Alvin in jail and Arthur visits her at home. We soon find out, however, that Vilate is planning with her friend to make Alvin fall in love with her and give her the golden plow as a gift. Alvin, however, has no problem seeing through her hexes.

Calvin travels to France and begins using his ability to superficially heal people. He can’t heal as well as Alvin can, but he can make people look healed and he can do minor repair. He’s hoping that news of his ability will eventually reach Napoleon and gain him an audience. What it gains him is a trip to jail. Verily Cooper arrives in Vigor Church, looking for Alvin and, after getting to know him a bit, his family sends him to Hatrack River to be Alvin’s lawyer.

Peggy is also on her way to Hatrack to testify on Alvin’s behalf, if necessary. As a Torch, her testimony will carry much weight. On her way, she again meets Mike Fink. He is working as a ferryman and is much changed since she last saw him. He recognizes her and saws that he’s come to protect Alvin from a plot by people who want to have him extradited to Kentucky for the murder of the slave finder, but kill him on the way. He says that since Alvin took away his protection hex, and then healed his legs after he broke them, he has learned what it feels like to cause another person pain and has become a better person for it. He never realized what it felt like while he had the hex.

After weeks of being in the Bastille, Calvin is taken to see Napoleon by Napoleon’s nephew, also named Napoleon. Calvin demonstrates his power by taking away Napoleon’s pain (a matter of playing with the nerves in Napoleon’s leg), but admits that it’s not a permanent solution. He says he will stay by Napoleon and keep the pain at bay if Napoleon will teach him. Napoleon agrees to do so. That day, Vilate brings Alvin a pie in jail. Alvin feels he is starting to fall in love with her, despite her plain looks. Vilate, however, has a new hex on that makes it appear as though she and Alvin are not in the jail when Deputy Billy enters. He raises the alarm and runs out. When Sherriff Doggly comes in, Vilate has dropped the hex. Alvin has no idea why she did that.

Peggy comes to see Alvin in jail the same day the pre-trial starts. Verily is his lawyer and Daniel Webster is co-counsel for the prosecution, hired by Cavil Planter to have him extradited to Kentucky for the murder of the slave finder who tried to take Arthur Stewart.

Cooper arranges for a test to see if a panel of slave finders can identify Arthur from his cache. Because Alvin has changed Arthur’s DNA, the finders are unable to identify him and so the judge rules that the finders who tried to take Arthur were wrong in trying to take him and therefore, Alvin was not interfering with the law, but was acting out of self-defense when he killed the finder. He is cleared of that charge and so will not be sent to Kentucky to stand trial for it.

That night, Peggy brings Mike Fink to the jail. Fink tells Alvin about the plot to kill him and offers to be his bodyguard. Alvin and Mike become friends and Alvin sends him to find out who the people are who were trying to have him extradited and killed. Meanwhile, Arthur Stewart goes for a visit Vilate’s house and hears her talking to a salamander about how she’s going to do something bad to Alvin. He waits outside until she goes to the bathroom and then enters the house. The salamander suddenly appears to him as his adopted mother, Peg. He then realizes that someone is using this salamander to appear like other people. Vilate thought she was seeing her friend when it was just the lizard.

At the trial for the plow, Daniel Webster calls in Amy Stump. She says that Alvin often leaves his jail cell here in Hatrack to visit her. She is pregnant and wants Alvin to come home. Alvin can see that Amy is pregnant, but knows that it is not his. Webster then calls Deputy Billy and Vilate to testify. Billy says that he did see Alvin’s cell empty once. Vilate lies and tells the court that Alvin took her out of his cell with him and had sex with her out by a lake. Now she regrets going with him because of his relationship with Amy.

Having been informed of Vilate’s hexes and the salamander, Verily takes away Vilate’s scarf, which carries part of her hex, and reveals her to be a liar. She then asks that she take her salamander out of her purse. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The judge orders the bailiff to remove the salamander. Everyone can see it except Vilate. She sees only her friend. Alvin realizes it is the Unmaker possessing the salamander and making Vilate see it as her friend. He makes it so that everyone can hear what the salamander is saying to Vilate, coaching her on the witness stand. Alvin then removes the hex the Unmaker put on the salamander and Vilate sees her error, admitting everything. She says that Webster put her up to tricking Deputy Billy and lying in order to corroborate Amy’s story. Alvin is cleared of any inappropriate doing with Amy or Vilate and Webster is ejected from the court.

The Judge’s plan now is to dig up the spot on Make Peace’s property where Hank Dowser originally said to dig the well. If the spot has any remains of gold, they’ll know Alvin took the gold from that spot and that it should therefore belong to Make Peace. The next day, however, is Election Day and Bloody Hands Harrison is elected. The town is going crazy. Sheriff Doggly releases Alvin for the night to make room for all the drunken rioters. Mike Fink returns and tells Alvin that the plot against him is going to happen tonight. Some men from Rev. Philadelphia Thrower and Cavil Planter are going to attack him. Fortunately, the attackers don’t realize Alvin has left the jail. They storm the place and don’t find him there. Peggy tells Alvin what Harrison will do and Alvin agrees to leave Hatrack as soon as the trial is over, no matter what the outcome. He plans to go to the Weaver’s house and take the portal Peggy told him about to go visit the Red Prophet and see what can be done about Harrison. When the court-hired diggers where Dowser tells them the first well was, all they find is bedrock, just as Alvin said. Dowser apologizes to Alvin and Judge _ acquits him. Alvin then proposes to Peggy and she accepts. The judge marries them right there.

That evening, Alvin and his entourage sneak out of Hatrack to avoid his attackers. They reach the Weaver’s house and see Becca’s nephew doing the spinning. Tecumseh and Becca then come through the portal and tell Alvin how it works. He visits Tensquatawa and the Prophet agrees to lift the curse from the people of Vigor Church, saying the ghosts of his people have forgiven their murderers. Tale Swapper is also there and he returns with Alvin. Peggy, however, is off to Philadelphia to try to convince Congress not to go along with Harrison’s plans. She is pregnant and she and Alvin promise to find each other in nine months. Meanwhile, Calvin returns to America after having cut off the pain receptors in Napoleon’s brain. He has a French author named Honore with him. Honore has placed the idea in Calvin’s mind to destroy Alvin’s Crystal City once he builds it.

When Calvin sees President Harrison making a speech, Calvin makes him sick. Harrison dies a month later. Calvin decides that he could never kill Alvin, though. 

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