Genre: Historical with fantasy elements Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - second book in trilogy
*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER*
After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.
Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I can’t believe that not only did it take me so long to read WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER, but it then took me almost an entire year to continue reading the trilogy considering how much I adored the first book.
LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS is a brilliant follow up, as unafraid to hurt beloved characters as the first book. It’s so unflinching from the harsh realities of the gold rush – even if Lee’s magic means her community thrives at first.
It felt incredibly researched and realistic. My knowledge of the gold rush is simple – there was a gold rush and people went west – so it could all be made up (I doubt it, from the author’s note). The books also doesn’t shy away from portraying the horrific way the Native Americans and Chinese immigrants were treated – though I’d love to hear an #OwnVoices reviewer’s thoughts who knows the history better than me.
Though the book takes place in a much smaller area than the first, it does really expand the world, mainly because there are many more people involved. Instead of focusing on the gold seekers (with store clerks popping up briefly), LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS depicts a broader range of people so the society expands both up the social ladder and down it.
Regardless, the world is so immersive that you can feel the grit between your fingers as you pan for gold dust alongside the children. The writing is lush, rich and expansive as it flows.
The discussion about single women feels so topical, thought the legal realities are thankfully very different today. I liked the dimension it gave to the uncertainty in Leah’s feelings towards Jefferson, because it causes tension in their relationship that feels grounded and realistic. It’s not drama for drama’s sake.
Hiram is horrible, so repulsive. He’s a villain you have to hate, skin crawling every time he’s on page. I both liked that he was thoroughly irredeemable (and yet felt human) but also wanted to punch him out of the book.
I think I didn’t quite like this book as much as the first because I adored that fact that WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER had nature as the primary villain, whereas this one had Hiram. Of course, all the books couldn’t be survival books, but Hiram lacks the relentlessness and unbending, unfathomable of the physical challenges from the westward journey.
I’m so glad I have the final book to dive into right away – no more dragging my heels with this fabulous series.
Read my reviews of other books by Rae Carson:
The Gold Seer Trilogy (this series):
Fire and Thorns: