** Edit: January 18, 2017:
I have been made aware that this book negatively depicts stereotypes of First Nations people, in particular, that they are portrayed as grave robbers. I strongly encourage you to click through the link to read a review written by someone who is much more knowledgeable on this topic than I am. I will say that I don’t remember picking up on the grave robbing, but that just further proves my ignorance on the subject.**
I really enjoyed this novel. I had never read a Western before – the closest I’ve ever come was reading the Little House on the Prairie series as a kid – so I was really looking forward to jumping into a new genre. That being said, this Western wasn’t too far out of my comfort zone: The main character, Lee, can sense gold like a bloodhound can sense a fox.
The book begins in the state of Georgia, right at the time of the California Gold Rush. Lee, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, decides to test her luck out west, and must disguise herself as a boy in order to make her own way to California. She makes numerous friends and enemies along the way, and her many secrets weigh heavily on her shoulders throughout her journey.
Rae Carson definitely did her best to create as true a picture of the California Gold Rush as she could. From the strained relationship between Native Americans and the white people on their way to California, to pregnancy and the dangerous labour on the road, to dehydration, to cholera, to stampedes, to getting your first period while on the run and pretending to be a boy, everything has been included in this book. It was refreshing to read a story where the less glamorous parts of life were dealt with, and were given proper credit. The Gold Rush was harsh, and Lee and her company have to deal with those harsh realities in the novel.
Because these harsh realities are addressed in the book, the tension never falters. The stakes are always high, because even if our troupe makes it over the next mountain side, or through the next desert, the threat and promise of what awaits them in California is everpresent.
I am so excited to read the next book in this trilogy. I can hardly wait!