Genre: Fantasy, Historical Age Range: YA Star Rating: 5/5 stars Series: Yes - first of trilogy
Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.
Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.
She also has a secret.
Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.
When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.
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Rae Carson is the author of my favourite book (CROWN OF EMBERS) so I was excited to read this book. It’s never been published in the UK, and then in the four years (!) since I heard about this book, I drifted away from historical fiction for many reasons. I’m so glad I decided to track down a copy of this book though. I was hooked from the first page and read far longer than I should have.
I know very little about American history – being a Brit, we don’t really study the world across the pond. I went into this book knowing only a general idea that people made a long trip across America after gold. I can’t say how accurate the book is, but it paints a harsh picture of the journey.
The main threat of this story (beyond the initial kick-starter) is the nature. It throws everything at Lee and the travellers she joins. I loved how the main villain is nature – undefeatable and omnipresent. It is a villain to be weathered, head down and together. This makes the antagonist force a looming presence that raises stakes and puts everyone in danger.
Of course, there are human antagonists – the trial of the crossing really brings out both the good and bad in people. The characters are wonderfully drawn and complex. There is quite a large cast, but they all feel real and human. The death are shocking and some are heartbreaking – but it all feels realistic not just there for shock/pain factor.
Lee was an engaging protagonist, caught in her web of lies (pretending to be a boy among them) and hating it. Her growth is evident, as are the strength of the friendships she forms. Her gold sense doesn’t feature as much as I was expecting, mainly because there’s not much gold about.
It was interesting (and frustrating) to see how differently she was treated by the same people as a boy and as a girl. Period opinions, I guess.
Now to track down the other books in the series…
Read my reviews of of books by Rae Carson
The Gold Seer Trilogy (this series):
Fire and Thorns: