With the start of the Chinese New Year, I thought it would be a fun time to pick up THE 13TH SIGN by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, which is based on the zodiac. For those not in the know, astrologically, there are thirteen constellations that cross the ecliptic, Ophiuchus being one of them, yet only twelve of these are in the zodiac. (Here's more info on Ophiuchus and the history of where it falls for those curious to learn more) Tubb looked at this when setting the foundation for THE 13TH SIGN. She writes,
The story begins when Jalen and Ellie carry on a birthday tradition started by Jalen's Nina, despite the fact that Jalen doesn't believe in horoscopes. She's never anything like her sign, Sagittarius, portrays her to be. When the girls find an old, locked book, they don't know what they possess. Upon opening it, Jalen realizes that her birthday should fall under the sign of Ophiuschus, which was lost over time.
With the book to guide her, she accidentally unlocks Ophiuschus, bringing the thirteenth constellation into reality...and changing the personalities of people across the world as they fall beneath new signs as the zodiac shifts. There is a reason that Ophiuschus was hidden, a dangerous one, and people would kill to lay hands on this secret. Jalen must now fix the wrong she created and defeat the twelve members of the zodiac as they descend from the heavens to challenge her for unleashing Ophiuschus.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when picking this up. It sounded like a fun read, and I have a soft spot for thirteenth zodiac signs thanks to my love of the left-out cat from the Fruits Basket series, which I used to love. I wasn't expecting the action-packed adventure THE 13TH SIGN takes readers on. This book would make a great video game, in a sort of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World sort of way, which is what I kept thinking of as Jalen faced each new challenge set before her. I also like the way Tubb incorporated Greek mythology into Jalen's journey as she defeats each hurdle in a very Herculean fashion. The twelve zodiacs had the feel of gods among us, which is an element I love in series such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. It intrigued me to see this spin on mythology, rather than one incorporating actual gods, and feel it will really appeal to readers.
I really identified with Jalen, who never felt she quite fit with her sign. I'm a Leo, and never felt that the horoscopes described my personality. I always felt I was closer to Cancer, the sign right before mine. It was only within the last few years that I realized there was something called a Cusp that affects some people as one sign rotates into the other. I'm technically a Cancer/Leo Cusp, which actually makes more sense to me, so I related with Jalen's disillusionment with horoscope readings over the years. While the book is lighter on depth, it's middle-grade, and this works in its favor. I always love books where learning doesn't feel like work, but a little golden nugget you clutch and hold on to, sharing with others because it's so intriguing. THE 13TH SIGN is the perfect book to keep its audience's interest and encourage them to become interested in the zodiac, as well as imbuing them with both history and mythology in a sneaky way.