Like a River Glorious is the second book in Rae Carson's Gold Seer trilogy. I loved her first trilogy, which started with Girl of Fire and Thorns, and I read the first book in this series, Walk on Earth a Stranger, back in February. It was awesome. It was about a girl who can sense gold taking the Oregon Trail west to California for the 1849 gold rush. So unusual! So cool!
Like a River Glorious picks up shortly after where the first book ended. Lee and her travelling companions have made it to California and are looking for a place to stake their claims. Lee gets around to revealing her secret pretty quickly in this book and things go well, until they don't, because her uncle and his henchmen start causing trouble. Most of the book actually takes place away from the group, as Lee falls into her uncle's clutches at his mine and works to escape along with some of her friends and the workers who are essentially slaves at the mine.
I didn't like this volume quite as much as I liked Walk on Earth a Stranger. WoEaS was so different but this one, for the most part, didn't do anything new from what had already been established. I'm starting to wonder why Lee is apparently the only person in this world who seems to possess a supernatural ability. I mean, I wasn't rooting for people to start growing wings and shooting fire out of their eyes, but it does seem strange that Lee's the only one who has any sort of ability beyond the norm. I was really hoping we'd get to see at least one other person who had some sort of subtle ability, something to just point out that Lee's not alone in that regard.
Carson also gets very political in this book. I can see why; some of the things that happened in the era she's writing about were horrible, and shouldn't be ignored. You know, stuff like abuses towards Native Americans. But at the same time, I felt like, at parts of the book, I was being preached at. It's definitely possible to teach a lesson and shed light on historical atrocities without being preachy, but I don't think that happened here.
And finally, I just don't think this book was as interesting as WoEaS. That one covered a lot more time and distance, whereas this one takes place over a much smaller amount of time (less than a month, probably) and is mostly in one place, with a much-reduced cast of characters. WoEaS also had such a large cast of characters, with so many of them dying or going their separate ways (perfectly appropriate for a book about the Oregon Trail) that I had a lot of difficulty reading this one and remembering who each member of the party was. I think a refresher on that one definitely could have helped. And Lee was much more useless in this than she was in the first one. Ultimately, yes, she's the one to save the day, but up until that point she spends most of the time being dragged hither and yon, getting her friends in trouble, and getting people killed without actually doing much. It was a bit disappointing, given how strong of a character Lee had become in WoEaS in spite of her sex. I felt like we really took some steps back here.
There are some nice parts here. Carson has style of writing that feels very authentic, with a particular knack for scenic imagery, and I am glad that she chose to pull in historical atrocities even though I didn't like how preachy they felt. The ongoing development of Lee's powers was also good to see--it's nice to know that she's not just stagnant in them, though it's hard to imagine where she'll go from here. It was great to see how Glory grew, and there's a mild bit of romance here, too. And I really liked Wilhelm and wish we knew more about him! I would totally shove Jeff off to the side and replace him with Wilhelm as a romantic interest for Lee because, though we don't know much about him, I feel like he might have more depth. I think it's a book worth reading, and the touch of the paranormal/supernatural might be enough to draw in readers who normally wouldn't pick up a historical fiction if their lives depended on it, but I think WoEaS was stronger and that this suffers from some Second Book Syndrome. Hopefully the third book is stronger and a worthy conclusion to the trilogy.
3 stars out of 5.