by Rae Carson
First sentence: “I hear the deer before I see him, though he makes less noise than a squirrel — the gentle crunch of snow, a snapping twig, the soft whuff as he roots around for dead grass.”
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Review copy picked up at Children’s Institute and signed by the author (who I fangirled over).
Content: There’s some violence, including a few deaths, and some talk about sex (but none actual). It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.
Leah Westfall has a talent for finding gold. Well, maybe more than a talent: she can magically sense gold out in the wilderness. But, in northern Georgia in 1849, gold is getting pretty scarce. Even so, she and her parents get by. She’s fairly content. Then, her parents are brutally murdered by a man wants to control her “talent”, so she disguises herself as a man, runs away and head for the place where gold is most plentiful: California.
That’s basically the premise, as this book is primarily concerned with Leah’s — Lee’s — journey getting to California. It’s full of action and suspense, but it’s ordinary action and suspense. Robbers, rough rivers, threats from the known and unknown. It doesn’t seem like much, but it kept me turning pages.
This book deviates from Carson’s other works in that it’s more of a historical fiction piece and less of a magical one. Sure, Lee has magical abilities. But (so far), that’s the only magic. The rest of it, from the inherent sexism and racism to the trials they face while crossing the plains is historical. Even though I like Carson’s magic, I think I enjoyed this one more because the magic was so understated. It did help Lee out, on occasion. But for the most part, she was making her own way on her own terms. Which was awesome.
The other thing is that this is the first of a projected trilogy, but I have no idea where Carson is heading. Sure, the Big Bad isn’t taken care of, but he wasn’t a real threat in this novel either. I was actually content with the way this one ended: Lee survived the journey, she got to California, she can live happily ever after. However, I will follow Carson down whatever road she wants to take, and I wouldn’t mind reading more of Lee’s story at all.