Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Young Adult
Published by Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins on September 27, 2016
Also by this author: Crown of Embers, Walk on Earth a Stranger
In this second adventure, Lee and Jeff have reached California with their ragtag group of travelers and are ready to find a spot to settle down. Avoiding some nearby characters who are also looking to find a claim, Lee uses her gold-sensing to lead their band to a lovely spot they call Glory, California. But knowing her uncle and his men will eventually find them, Lee tells her others of her ability and their danger. Though a few leave, the rest make plans and build a homestead. Becky Joyner, who is a terrible cook, even manages to make a business selling flapjacks to a neighboring group of men who come to be regular patrons of her cooking. When arson and murder threaten to ruin their lives, Lee makes a deal to return to her uncle for the safety of her friends. Refusing to let her travel alone, Jeff and Tom, the lawyer, go with her. However, on the way, they are captured by Frank Dilley and his men working for her uncle, and while Lee plays a lady, Jeff and Tom are held as hostages. Once at her uncle's mining camp, Lee sees how they enslave the Indians and subjugate the Chinese both with varying degrees of horrific conditions that most people wouldn't subject their animals to. Together with Jeff, Tom, a Chinese maid, and an Indian leader, Lee joins in a revolt to save their lives, but when things don't go according to plan, it's Lee who must step up and use whatever means she has to stand against her uncle and his men.
(Please note for this post: The word ‘Indian’ is used to describe those of Native American descent due to it being a word culturally used during that period, and is also used in this review since it is in the book and a predominant sub-theme of the novel.)
This second book of the Gold Seer Trilogy has a very different flavor than the first as the first was a long journey narrative. This, by contrast, is more split into two parts, the first being an account of creating their homestead and helping it to survive, and the second of being an unwilling captive in her uncle’s camp and joining a resistance movement in a fight for freedom. Rather than being a book all its own, it is decidedly a second book where mostly action carries the novel rather than plot or other drives, so readers will want to read the first before they try this one. The setting is much more localized, but we don’t get to see much of California until the very end when there are glimpses of a historic Sacramento. It’s possible that Glory, California, their small town (which seems to be fictional), could be Glory Holy Recreation Area, a bit southeast of Sacramento since it is both near mountains, east of San Francisco, and has quite a bit of water nearby as described in the book.
Our heroine Lee has also grown into her leadership role among the group, and most think highly of her judgment and abilities after their trek West. When other groups (men) begin to intermingle with their own, even these men come to recognize Lee’s leadership and voice despite her gender. While Lee is captive in her uncle’s camp, she must return to the pretense of being a proper young lady and subject to her uncle’s authority and that of other men. Even when she is brought in by the leaders of the resistance group, Lee must still keep up much of the act to keep her friends safe. However, the very power her Uncle Hiram wants to use to save him, Lee grows to wield for her protection and as a potential weapon. Also, Lee and Jeff’s romance heats up a bit, and Lee is no longer denying her feelings. Jeff is growing to appreciate his heritage, that of being half-Indian, and begins to see their rights as his own rights and speaks out among those who are not Indian.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was how it brought cultural issues of the area to light without being overwhelming such as: the treatment of Indians of the period (capturing them, enslaving them, stealing their land, and treating them with very little human dignity or care for life); the treatment of the Chinese where they immigrate and gain work contracts which made them no better than performing slave labor, sometimes termed a ‘coolie gang’; and still continued the issues of women’s rights and slavery. Another change from the first novel is the growth of Leah’s gold-sensing power. Here she begins to use it more frequently, perhaps because her secret is no longer as secret, and it begins to transform. No longer is it just a calling where the gold appears from the ground, but she is able to make it mold and bend to her will with greater and greater success. Lastly, isn’t that cover absolutely gorgeous? Doesn’t it really capture a glorious sunrise?
I still can’t wait for the third and final volume Into the Bright Unknown coming out in October 2017, and I expect we will see even more of Leah come into her own, both in powers and in the world.
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