After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.
Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.
I didn’t end up rereading Walk on Earth a Stranger, and while there were certain things that I wasn’t very clear on, the bulk of the story was refreshed well enough by the first few chapters that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything going into this sequel.
I had a little bit of an issue with how Lee ended up at her uncles camp, it seemed too much like Plot was driving it, but the interest I have in the characters was able to overshadow that well enough. I enjoyed how Lee’s witchy powers adapted in this one, and seeing she and Jeff grow together more. I also really liked the overall family feel and dedication she and her fellow camp members had with each other.
The main argument I have seen about the book is the portrayal of the Native Americans, and how they ‘help the nice white people.” I though the author did a great job addressing one of the darkest aspects of our country’s history. She made Lee face her unconscious prejudices, and acknowledge that her hardships were nothing compared to those of the Native Americans and Chinese Immigrants. She also points out several great books in her acknowledgments that go into deeper study of both groups experience in Gold Rush California.
I felt like the story was pretty resolved at the end of this, so I am interested to see if there really is a third book, and what all is going to happen. I can see how her powers and the statehood could cause a good story, but the main villain seems to be dealt with, and a reappearance of Uncle Hiram wouldn’t feel natural after how this ended.
Talking of Uncle Hiram, the subtlety to his villainy was so well done. He’s obsessed with Lee’s mother, and using her to try and fill that hole. There were so many times where I was terrified that the relationship was going to take on an even darken turn. His obsession is what makes him so scary; not his need to be rich or the fact that he’s a murderer, but his obsession. The subtlety to the darkness of Hiram, on top of the dangers and hardships of the environment, with her strong characters, makes this series a strong one.