A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Rae Carson
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, History, Horses and Farm Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books
- Publication date: October 10, 2017
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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