Book Review: Like a River Glorious – Rae Carson

Title: Like a River Glorious
Author: Rae Carson
ISBN: 9780062242945
Pages: 416
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
Source: Publisher

Summary

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?

Review

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.

Other books by Rae Carson

Walk on Earth a Stranger

The Crown of Embers
The Bitter Kingdom

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Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger – Rae Carson

walk-on-earth-a-strangerTitle: Walk on Earth a Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
ISBN: 9780062242914
Pages: 448
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Teen/YA
Source: Review Copy

Summary

Leah is a 15-year-old living in Georgia in the 1800s, and though the gold rush is coming to an end, Leah’s unique ability means that she has an advantage over others looking for gold: She can sense when gold is near. Her family makes every effort to keep her ability under wraps, but when tragedy strikes, and Leah is faced with being used as a pawn in her uncle’s schemes, she chooses instead to disguise herself as a boy and make her way to California, to build a new life for herself.

Review

I absolutely loved Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy; it was unique and incredibly written, with vivid world building, gripping storytelling, and an unconventionally wonderful main character. I knew I’d follow wherever Carson led, even if it was into a time period I’m not very interested in reading about. I trusted Carson’s ability as a storyteller, and I’m so glad I did: I was impressed and intrigued by Walk on Earth a Stranger at every turn.

Leah is a strong main character in Walk on Earth a Stranger; she is used to relying on herself and is fiercely independent, yet she also shows a vulnerability that is rare in main characters in YA novels. It’s so difficult to write a strong, confident character who still exhibits self-doubt and vulnerability, yet Carson excels at doing so. She’s a character you’ll root for, one who is insanely capable and deserves the chance to determine her own fate.

Carson does an excellent job discussing the dangers inherent in a cross-country trip in Walk on Earth a Stranger. Leah faces many challenges on her journey, not the least of which is keeping her identity under wraps. Despite the fact this is our world, and not a fantasy one like in Carson’s previous trilogy, there is still a lot of world building to be done, a huge and elaborate stage to be set. The details are vivid and the reader really gets a sense of what it must have been like to experience this sort of journey during the early 1800s.

If you haven’t read Rae Carson’s novels yet, Walk on Earth a Stranger is the first in a trilogy (though it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger—it stands as its own story) and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re a person who waits until all installments are out before reading a series, though (and I can’t blame you there), then you should absolutely pick up her previous, completed trilogy. Either way, Carson is a novelist you should keep an eye out for; I certainly will pick up and devour anything she writes.

Other books by Rae Carson:

The Bitter Kingdom
The Crown of Embers

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Book Review: The Bitter Kingdom – Rae Carson

The Bitter Kingdom coverTitle: The Bitter Kingdom
Author: Rae Carson
ISBN: 9780062026545
Pages: 448
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Teen/YA, Fantasy
Source: The MindHut
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Elisa, the seventeen year old queen, is about to embark on her most dangerous mission yet: to save Hector, the captain of her guard, her proposed fiance, and the man she loves, from the vicious Inviernos, the mortal enemies of her people. Somehow, she must find a way into enemy territory, using the opportunity to gather intelligence on the Inviernos and to try to understand what they want and how best to protect her people.

Snapshot Review:

The third novel in the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy finds Elisa working towards being an even better leader for her people. It can’t be said enough how great of a heroine Elisa is; she started out the trilogy being an insecure overeater who drowned her loneliness in food. She’s fought hard since then, becoming a strong and wise queen, but every achievement came with hard work and sacrifice. If you’ve been bemoaning the lack of strong female role models in YA, this is absolutely a book you should seek out. The plot moves quickly and decisively; Elisa takes risks she shouldn’t, but it’s understandable. She’s still learning how to be a leader. One of the most interesting aspects of The Bitter Kingdom is Elisa’s realization that she can’t save everyone and, sometimes, she has to make hard decisions. The ending is a little too neatly tied up, but Carson leaves room for another Elisa novel or a spin-off. Here’s hoping it happens: Elisa is, quite possibly, the best female character in any YA novel that’s being written today.

Other books by Rae Carson:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
The Crown of Embers

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