Like a River Glorious: Gold Seer Trilogy, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Like a River Glorious: Gold Seer Trilogy, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Tense Gold Rush tale shows harsh reality of slavery.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows how many mining camps were run during the Gold Rush, how disputes were handled in the lawless West -- claim-jumpers abounded -- and how Native Americans and Chinese immigrants were enslaved and exploited. The author takes a particular interest in exploring the lives of women at this time and place. She also talks about the mechanics of mining gold -- how to find it, how to use mercury to extract it, and so on.

Positive Messages

As in Book 1, Like a River Glorious explores racism and gender inequality. We see the main character, Lee, bristle under the unfairness of both. Incredible hardship brings out the best in many people and the worst in others. There's a freedom in trusting others with our secrets. Here Lee realizes, "All the magic in the world is rubbish compared to people who take care of their own."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lee's a strong teen girl character who's deep in her convictions about treating everyone of every race fairly -- not common for the 1849 time period. She also has a choice to make about whether to kill and works hard to find her way around it while still protecting others. She learns to control her temper when it will not serve her cause, even if the injustice done to her is great.

Violence

Quite a body count in lawless gold country. Native Americans are turned into slaves for labor, forced to work naked, and are shot, whipped, and starved to death. The main character, Lee, witnesses one slave shot in the head in front of her, sees a starved corpse left in the mud, and watches another man get stabbed in the back. Heads of dead Native Americans are cut off for reward money. A death of one of Lee's friends from broken back and skull fracture. Other friends are shot at and recover. Lee and two friends are drugged and kidnapped. Lee's uncle ties her up and hits her. Talk of a man falling to his death and about how when Jefferson was a child, his father beat him.

Sex

Some kissing and groping. Lee sees a prostitute in a mining camp sit on two men's laps, and the prostitute hints at what she does with the men. 

Language

Infrequent use of "damn" and "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People use laudanum to forcibly drug others into submission. Men in the mining camps drink whiskey and moonshine, smoke pipes, and chew tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Like a River Glorious, by Rae Carson (the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy), is the second absorbing book in the Gold Seer trilogy. It stars Lee, a girl whose parents are murdered in Georgia by her uncle, who wants to exploit her "witchy" ability to find gold. After Lee makes the harrowing journey west in Walk on Earth a Stranger, she and her friends are trying to start a mining camp -- until she's drugged and kidnapped and taken to her uncle's slave-labor mining operation, where the worst of the violence occurs. Native Americans are forced to work naked and are shot, whipped, and starved to death. Lee witnesses one slave shot in the head in front of her, sees a starved corpse left in the mud, and watches another man get stabbed in the back. Plenty of men smoke and some drink moonshine and whiskey. Like Book 1, this story tackles tough topics such as racism and gender inequality with sensitivity, owing mostly to the wonderful main character: Lee is a strong teen girl who's deep in her convictions about treating everyone fairly -- not common for the 1849 time period.

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What's the story?

In LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS, Lee and fellow wagon train travelers have arrived in California, and it's time to stake some claims and get digging and panning. With Lee's ability to sense gold, she settles them near a pond in a floodplain. Of course, they're instantly successful, but Lee can't celebrate. Claim jumpers with guns in the dark had already threatened them once, and it won't be long before her villainous uncle and his men come looking for her. So she decides to tell everyone her big secret and the danger they're in. One family decides to leave right away to protect themselves while the others stick it out and befriend some other miners, hoping for strength in numbers. It doesn't help in the end: Their camp is set on fire, and someone is shot and killed on watch. Now Lee knows she must find a way to face her uncle to keep her friends safe.

Is it any good?

Readers who made the harrowing cross-country wagon trip with Lee in Book 1 may be expecting less drama in Book 2, but this satisfying sequel is full of nail-biting moments. Even before Lee's greedy and corrupt Uncle Hiram enters Like a River Glorious, claim jumpers and Hiram's henchmen are a constant threat.

And then we reach Hiram's camp. The contrast between Glory, California, where Lee's friends settle, and Hiram's Gulch is jarring. Lee's awakening to the injustice of slavery tempers her response to her own pretty serious troubles, making her an even more enviable character. Author Rae Carson lets things get pretty grim at Hiram's Gulch, steeping the story in the harsh reality of the times, but that allows her the room to work toward justice in an even more profound way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the two very different mining camps in Like a River Glorious. How did the characters' feelings about race influence how the camps were run?

  • How was life for women different on the frontier? Would Lee be able to have the same life back in Georgia?

  • There are few clues about what will happen in the final installment of the Gold Seer trilogy. Will you see it through to the end? Why, or why not?

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