Title: Like a River Glorious
Author: Rae Carson
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
There have been casualties along the way, but Lee Carson has survived the arduous journey to California and settled down with her companions, eager to begin a new life. But the tragedies she left behind aren’t done with her yet; Lee’s uncle manages to track her down once again, and he will do anything to obtain her witch-like ability to track down gold for himself, including putting her companions in grave danger. How will Lee be rid of this man, the person responsible for her parents’ murder, once and for all?
The second book in the Gold Seer trilogy, Like a River Glorious, continues the story that began in Walk on Earth a Stranger, and it’s a fascinating one at that. The trilogy takes place during the California gold rush and features young Lee Westfall, a teenage girl who has had to cope with the murder of her parents and leaving almost everything she holds dear behind to escape from her uncle. In this era, women couldn’t own or inherit property, and Lee is constantly struggling against the expectations and limitations placed upon her because of her gender.
Like a River Glorious sees Lee somewhat settled in California with her friends, content to start a new life. Of course, her past isn’t quite finished with her. This is a rollicking read to be sure; one twist after another fills its pages. It’s easy to read this novel in one sitting, as Carson keeps the tension high. She takes on various topics as the treatment of the indigenous population (and, indeed, the idea of “claiming” land that is already spoken for by the native people) and immigrant Chinese, as well as the gender issues already tackled in the first novel. It’s interesting and well-done commentary.
The one quibble (and it really is a small quibble) that I had with this book is Lee’s uncle. Specifically, he is so irredeemable, such a caricature of a villain that I found it frustrating. I kept looking for some complexity beyond the one-dimensional bad guy we were presented with, and never found it. In some ways, that’s refreshing—Carson makes no apologies for how the man treats his fellow human beings. But at the same time, I wouldn’t have minded some sort of depth to him.
If you don’t read a lot of YA novels, Rae Carson is where I suggest you start. Her previous trilogy, Girl of Fire and Thorns, is one of my favorites of all time, and the Gold Seer trilogy is shaping up to be pretty great as well. Her novels have depth and incredible world building; you’ll be able to close your eyes and picture the scenes unfolding around you. My favorite aspect, though, is her incredible main characters. They’ll stick with you for a long time, and you’re sure never to forget them.