First Lines: Sunrise comes late to California. Even when golden light washes the sky, and the snow-tipped peaks of the Sierra Nevada glow pink as winter roses, we remain in shadow for a spell, dwarfed by the slope of the land.
There’s always something about Rae Carson that draws me back. After devouring The Girl of Fire and Thorns series, I’ve had to wait patiently for each new Gold Seer book. But I do keep coming back. And I’ll explain that more below.
*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*
Finally in California territory, Leah Westfall and her friends are ready to settle down and make their fortunes in gold. Of course, Lee’s abilities make this easier than for other settles hoping to strike it rich. But while Lee just wants the chance to start over, Uncle Hiram isn’t ready to let go of the one person who could make him as rich as Midas. Kidnapping and sabotage are the least of what he’s willing to do to keep Lee under his thumb. His mine is the deepest and one of the most dangerous in the territory, but it’s there that Lee truly learns the meaning of friendship, the full extent of her powers, and the depth of the evil inside her uncle. To save everyone she loves, Lee just might have to give up that which is most important to her: her freedom.
For those of you familiar with Carson’s writing style, I found this to be very typical of what she’s written before. The plot isn’t full of action and plot twists, but it always manages to keep you invested in the characters and what is happening. I hesitate to call it slow because that’s really not the truth, but it’s not always going to throw fight scenes and such at you. I like that it spent time developing the characters through those slower scenes. Also, there’s a slow-as-a-moving-glacier romance. But again, I’m kind of used to that from Carson and it makes sense for the characters. Nothing about it felt forced or contrived, so it worked.
I really like the focus on the 1849 California Gold Rush because it’s a time that is often overlooked in historical fictions for some reason, even though it’s full of unsavory characters, danger, and fascinating historical tidbits. Carson does a nice job of making the time period feel realistic and as though we’re actually there. (That goes for the setting as well. I’ve never been to California, especially a California full of wilderness, so she did a great job creating that world.)
I said this with the last book and I’ll say it again. I know this technically qualifies as a historical fantasy, but I swear that the fantasy is really no big deal. Like, it’s definitely a driver for the plot, but as for how often it shows up in the story? It’s remarkably little, I feel like. It’s more historical than anything else.
Oh, and I definitely adore the characters. Lee has grown on me. (I didn’t like her so much in the first book.) But it’s the minor characters (Jefferson, Becky, Major, Jasper, Henry, Tom, etc.) who have completely won me over. The character development in this book is fantastic because they all feel unique and real. They all have little moments to shine.
Depending on your temperament and personality, this next bit may be a make-or-break moment. This book left me hopping mad. I mean, spitting nails and breathing fire angry. Part of that is my personality. To avoid spoilers, I can’t go too far into it. But let’s just say that when civil liberties are brought into question (yes, even in 1849), I tend to have a very quick and very fiery reaction. I understand that it was a different time, historically, but it doesn’t stop me from being angered by it. I spent at least a third of the book fired up over this.
I read a couple of reviews after I finished this that kind of make sense, so I think they’re worth repeating. One review mentioned how the plot of this book is virtually the same as the previous book. And that’s true. It’s all about trying to escape Uncle Hiram’s grasp. The other point is that there are historical inaccuracies when it comes to the treatment of Native Americans in this book. And that’s because history is way worse than this book portrayed it.
Overall, this book will throw some weird things your way, but it’s really good. You’ll quickly become invested in the characters and the action will always keep you guessing. Surprises are a frequent occurrence.