Into the Bright Unknown: Gold Seer Trilogy, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Into the Bright Unknown: Gold Seer Trilogy, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Exciting series finale in lawless 1850 San Francisco.

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Kids say

age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows a mining camp and San Francisco and how they would have looked in 1850. Details about San Francisco back then -- the ships grounded in San Francisco Bay that eventually become part of the landfill, the mouth of the bay before the Golden Gate Bridge, and more. Explores what kind of lawlessness existed before California became a state. Highlights the experiences not just of white miners that come to the city to gamble, but of the Chinese and black former slaves. The author's note details the research that went into understanding these perspectives. Explains the legal concept of coverture and what a raw deal it was for women, especially widows.

Positive Messages

As in the rest of the series, this final book explores racism and gender inequality. The story is driven by a need to right wrongs against the people who don't have power in a lawless land, including minorities, women, children, and the poor. Greed is punished in the end and justice wins out. Even with so much gold circling about, the good guys value friendship way above riches.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lee is a strong teen girl character who's deep in her convictions about treating everyone of every race fairly -- not common for the 1850 time period. She has a choice to leave her greedy enemy behind and head home to safety and decides instead to bring her enemy to justice because she has the power to protect other people from him.

Violence

Guns drawn and threatening in 1850 San Francisco. A man is shot and bleeds heavily. A fight where a man is beaten badly. A kidnapping. Man beaten up after a botched robbery. A hanging. A woman doesn't feel safe around frontier men and thinks she needs to marry for protection. Talk of violent pasts of main characters: the murder of Lee's parents, imprisonment by her uncle, deaths of people while heading West and in the mines.

Sex

Some kissing and groping of an engaged couple. Talk of prostitutes coming and going from a hotel.

Language

Infrequent use of "damn" and one "son of a beeswax."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink hard liquor in gambling houses and at a party, some to drunkenness. Men smoke cigars and cigarillos and chew tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson (the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy) is the final bold chapter in the Gold Seer trilogy. It stars Lee, a girl whose parents were murdered in Georgia by her own uncle. In Book 1, Walk on Earth a Stranger, Lee heads West to find gold with her "witchy" ability. In Book 2, Like a River Glorious, she's taken hostage in a mining town. In Into the Bright Unknown, Lee heads to San Francisco in 1850 and faces off against a greedy businessman out to exploit everyone. The violence is much milder in this book than in the others in the series. There's the usual Wild West gun-toting, but only one man is shot. There are fights and robberies. A man is beaten badly and there's a hanging. Plus there's a kidnapping of a free black man by smugglers paid to re-enslave him, a part of real history in the Old West. Historical details like that abound, and the focus extends beyond the white settlers you usually hear about. Lee's friends and allies are black, Native American, and Chinese, and strong women. Many scenes are set in gambling dens and bars where adults drink the hard stuff. There's plenty of smoking, as well. Engaged characters kiss, and there's talk of prostitutes at a hotel.

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old April 15, 2018

Gold Rush Fantasy Historical Fiction

This was a really good overall book, not the most captivating, but good. I recommend reading the first two books in the series, otherwise you'll be super c... Continue reading

What's the story?

In INTO THE BRIGHT UNKNOWN, Lee is happy living in Glory, California. Her friend Becky runs the diner and her fiancé, Jefferson, and friends mine gold nearby. Of course, Lee's "witchy" gold sense makes the mining easier, but there's still a danger that claim jumpers and other bad seeds will take over the town, especially without a charter to protect them. When word hits Glory that Becky's house (disassembled in the East and shipped West) has finally arrived in San Francisco by boat, Becky, Lee, Jefferson, and friends head to the big city, hoping to garner the Glory charter while they're there. They'd already given money to a prominent businessman named Hardwick to facilitate the deal. When they get to San Francisco, they realize they've trusted the wrong man with their gold. Hardwick not only pocketed the money, he plans on robbing Becky of her house as well by denying her claim (because she's a widow) and putting the house up for auction. Hardwick thinks he's in control, but he doesn't know Becky. And, while Hardwick knows that Lee has some power over gold, he doesn't know half of what she's capable of.

Is it any good?

While it's not as nail-biting as the other two fantasy-laced Westerns in the trilogy, this 1850 San Francisco-set finale intrigues with its call for justice in a world of greed and lawlessness. Strong and self-assured Lee is always worth rooting for, but more so here when she feels compelled to protect those who can't protect themselves. That drive for fair treatment in lawless times will resonate with many modern-day readers and young activists.

Lee isn't the only hero here. Diverse characters take control of their own lives. Mary, a Chinese woman and former prostitute, finds her strength. Jim, a free black man, fights for another man's freedom. Becky, a widow told she can't claim her property without her husband's signature, fights for what's hers. These characters fight for their own piece of justice, their own rights, while contributing to the wider story. As these individual stories are woven into the tale, some forward momentum is lost, but Into the Bright Unknown pulls together well into an exciting final act.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the racial divides in Into the Bright Unknown. In Chapter Seven, Jim explains how hard it is to really help their imprisoned friend Hampton. How is the situation more complex than his white friends thought? What do they decide will help Hampton the most?

  • What did you learn about San Francisco in 1850? Where can you find out more?

  • Each book in this trilogy focused on a different aspect of the West: the hard journey there, the Gold Rush, and the lawlessness of the big city. Which part of the trilogy was your favorite to read about?

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