Thirteen Moons is, at its heart, Will Cooper's fictional autobiography. In the early years of the nineteenth century, when Will is twelve years old, he's given a horse, a key, and a map and sent out on his own as a bound boy. His destination will be a trading post in the Cherokee Nation.
Frazier opens the story with Will as an old man. The voice he uses to communicate Will's heart to the reader is perfect. As an example, here's Will's take on old age: "It’s a bad idea to live too long. Few carry it off well. But nevertheless, here I am. In retreat but still in play, so to speak."
Will becomes something of a legend as his life unrolls, and his decision to set the record straight is what propels him to write his autobiography.
I loved the language used in Thirteen Moons, and the historical details. The book takes the reader beyond superficial "history" and delves into minute details, both of the Cherokee way of life before they were herded off their land, and also into politics in the early days of Washington, DC.
The heart of the novel (no pun intended) is Will's love for the elusive Claire. To me, her character was not as believable as Will's. I felt Ada, in Cold Mountain (Frazier's first novel), was more thoroughly developed. However, since Thirteen Moons is Will's story, perhaps he could only describe what he perceives Claire to be.
I enjoyed Thirteen Moons, but found it slow going at times. It's a book written for the general market, so there are some language issues, as well as scattered sexual situations. I'd still recommend this novel based on Frazier's skill as an author. For me as a writer, writing as good as his is necessary reading, just to see how a master performs his art.