One week after publication, the novel became No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2006. Reviews include the following:
- Kirkus Review – "a contemporary Gothic tale whose excesses and occasional implausibility can be forgiven for the thrill of the storytelling. Setterfield's debut is enchanting Goth for the 21st century."
- Library Journal – "It's a gothic novel, and it doesn't pretend to be anything fancier. But this one grabs the reader with its damp, icy fingers and doesn't let go until the last shocking secret has been revealed."
- The Washington Post – "The Thirteenth Tale keeps us reading for its nimble cadences and atmospheric locales, as well as for its puzzles, the pieces of which, for the most part, fall into place just as we discover where the holes are. And yet, for all its success – and perhaps because of them – on the whole the book feels unadventurous, content to rehash literacy formulas rather than reimagining them."
AudioFile magazine wrote of the audiobook recording, "Bianca Amato is stunning as Margaret ... Amato's respect for the power of story and the written word is heard in every utterance. Jill Tanner accomplishes a tour de force as the enigmatic and mysterious Vida ... her voice takes on the strength and power of a master storyteller as she weaves her spellbinding life story."