Review: Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

Like A River Glorious by Rae Carson

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson (Gold Seer Trilogy #2)

Genre: YA, Historical, Fantasy

Publisher: Greenwillow on September 27, 2016

Source: Publisher

Rating StarRating StarRating StarRating Starstar_half

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

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.

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LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS was one of my most anticipated releases for 2016 so it obviously had a lot to live up to – thankfully, I enjoyed it almost as much as its predecessor. There’s no second book slump here!

After the seemingly endless journey of the first book, Lee, her best friend Jefferson, and the rest of the gang have finally set down roots in California. Using her gold sense, the “witchy” ability that enables her to find and call gold, Lee ensures that she and they’ll have plenty of gold to live good lives in the West. Seeing everyone come together to build a camp and support each other was heartwarming, and honestly it was a welcome relief from the ceaseless struggle of WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER. Lee has come full circle, losing her family and her home just to find a new family and a new place of her own. Of course, that can’t last forever….

Everyone knows you can’t keep a bad guy down, so it’s not exactly a surprise to Lee when her villainous Uncle Hiram comes to call. He wants Lee – and her gold sense – and what Hiram Westfall wants, he gets. Against her will, Lee uses her powers to help Hiram’s mining efforts along and witnesses first hand the abysmal working conditions faced by miners during the Gold Rush. Rae Carson does an excellent job describing the abuse suffered by the Native American and Chinese labourers forced to work in the mines, a grim reality that grounded LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS and kept it from seeming too outlandish.

Lee’s gradual awareness of her position of comparative privilege is unusually subtle for YA, and I found myself happily accepting her occasionally anachronistic perspective on human rights since it came in the wake of her witnessing horrible atrocities. Sure, the average 19th century young, white American woman probably wasn’t as empathetic and forward thinking as Lee, but these qualities make her a likeable protagonist so I don’t really care.

Carson also does a fantastic job fleshing out Lee’s Uncle Hiram in LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS, which I really appreciated because I thought his villainy sort of came out of left field in the series opener. Clearly there’s a lot more motivating him than we were initially led to believe, because Hiram has a seriously creepy fixation with Lee’s mom and Lee herself. The way he would treat Lee like a doll one moment and then strike her across the face in the next made it impossible to predict what he’d do. His erratic behaviour really contributed to an atmosphere of suspense and created a lot of tension while I was reading. Plus I mean…how creepy was the reproduction of Lee’s mom’s old dress? * shudders *

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the truly adorable relationship between Lee and Jefferson. They will they, won’t they aspect of their relationship is sweet rather than annoying, since we all know how things will ultimately play out. Lee’s repeated refusals to rush into anything were very in character and felt realistic, too. Jeff is a sweetie, definitely a good model of a romantic partner (unlike some dudes in YA fantasy novels who shall go unnamed).

Overall I loved LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS, although I will say that in terms of form this book was a little too similar to the first for my tastes (i.e. escaping from one place to another to escape Hiram). That said, I’m very excited about the direction of the trilogy and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Lee, Jefferson, and co. in the final book!

Have you read LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS? Which YA love interests do you think represent a good, healthy romantic partner? Let me know in the comments!

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  • I heard book one on audio last year and really liked it. I need to read this one too although I’m hoping to listen it on audio instead of reading it. Glad you liked it. Nick did too 🙂

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

    • I feel like this series would be great on audio, if only because of the descriptive writing style! Hopefully you enjoy this one as much as Nick and I both did. 🙂

  • I do like of this western fantasy, I just read one

    • Oh, cool! Which one did you read? I’m hoping to read Silver on the Road soon!

  • Wohoo! I’m really glad to see you loved this one, Danya! I loved it so much too. I thought Carson did a fantastic job at building up on her first novel here. Although I pretty much love everything about this series, I think my favorite part has to be Lee herself. She’s terrific and I love that continues to stand strong despite all the obstacles she faces. I’m with you on the subtle discussion of privilege and discrimination too. It was done really well! I also agree with you on the romance aspects. Jeff is actually my perfect kind of YA love interest. I’m always going to choose the nice guy over the alpha-hole.
    What do you think will happen in the next book??
    Also, have you read Carson’s Fire & Thorns trilogy?

    • Oh yeah, I’m definitely a Rae Carson fan after this one! Lee is THE BEST! She’s honestly been through so much and the fact that she continues to soldier on is crazy inspiring to me. Her empathy and compassion is also really admirable, and I was especially impressed by how accepting she was of Mary (rather than being petty because of her role as the camp’s prostitute).

      OMG Jeff! Ugh, he’s so sweet. Hahaha yes, alpha-holes are the the worst, and just way too over the top. I like that he’s proven himself by putting up with Lee’s stubbornness, too. I’m thinking that Lee will get involved with some legal structures since so much of the earlier half of the book was concerned with getting deeds/paperwork showing that everyone owned their plots of land.

      I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to! Have you? What’d you think?

  • I’m so glad this lived up to the first book! I haven’t been able to fit it into my schedule yet, but I’m aiming for getting to it before the end of the year. I absolutely loved Walk on Earth a Stranger, so I can’t wait!

    • I was so relieved that this one was good, haha. After loving Walk on Earth a Stranger last year, I was concerned that this one couldn’t possibly live up to it, but I loved it. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one, Tammy!

  • Lynn Williams

    I can’t wait to start this series – everyone seems to love it so I have to make the time soon.
    Lynn 😀

    • It’s one of the only YA series that I feel comfortable recommending to all readers, including adults who don’t usually appreciate YA. 😉 I hope you really enjoy this one, Lynn!

  • Sara Letourneau

    I finished Like A River Glorious a couple days ago and also adored it. Haven’t figured out yet if I love it as much as Walk On Earth A Stranger yet… But I agree about Uncle Hiram. He was a bit disturbing, actually… So what he gets at the end is the perfect comeuppance.

    • Yeah, I know what you mean. I don’t think I loved this one any less (well, maybe a half star less), but I certainly loved it *differently.* I focused on different aspects of the story in this one.

      Uncle Hiram creeped me right out. Couldn’t agree more about his ending. Good riddance.

  • I didn’t read the review too closely because this is a series that is high on my tbr and I don’t want to spoil my self more than I already have. However 1) I’m glad you gave it such a high rating and 2) You are reading just some really great stuff lately. Everything you’re reviewing, I immediately want to read myself. A lot fo historical fiction/fantasy mashups which is totally my jam! Keep up the good work;).

    • Good plan, hahaha! I can’t wait to see what you think of this series, Stephanie. So far it seems like everyone’s loving it.

      Aww yay! I’m so glad to hear that my book pushing is successful…LOL. 😉 For a long time UF was my go-to comfort read, but these days historical fantasy is just doing it for me way more. Who knows why? Maybe I just OD’ed on badass ladies in leather.

  • Glad to see you loved this one! I’m not huge into historicals, but I’m tempted to try this series. I can see how it would be a little disappointing that this one had a lot of similarities to the plot of the previous book though. I hate when series do that.

    • Normally I’d hesitate to recommend this to someone who doesn’t really like historicals (since the fantasy element is so slight) but this series is beloved by so many readers with different tastes that I think it might work for you.

      Yeah, the similarities in plot/structure were disappointing. Thankfully though, it was my only real complaint! 🙂

  • “Sure, the average 19th century young, white American woman probably wasn’t as empathetic and forward thinking as Lee, but these qualities make her a likeable protagonist so I don’t really care.” – I definitely have to agree on the awesome protagonist part! Though I have to say, I probably would have minded her anachronistic perspective a little more if this had been an adult historical, like it did in Ghost Talkers. I know the two cases aren’t exactly the same, but they both gave off similar revisionist attitudes that tried to gloss over the reality of the times. And good point about the plot similarities between this sequel and the first book! I didn’t even notice, because I guess I was just too taken with the whole “Oregon Trail” aspect of Walk on Earth A Stranger 🙂

    • Oh yeah, same here. I’m definitely more forgiving of historical inaccuracies in YA, and I’m much more willing to suspend my disbelief as well. Plus let’s be real: as much as I liked Ginger, Lee is far and away the better protagonist! Haha.

      Considering that those plot similarities were the only things I didn’t like in the entire book, I’m still gonna call it a win. 🙂

  • I still need to read this one! I’ve had an ARC for… forever. *hides* I read one review that kind of deterred me (this was months ago), and I haven’t been able to open the book since. BUT. The overwhelming majority of reviews have been a lot like yours – highly positive, gushy, and wonderful. I have this one scheduled for a few weeks from now. Hopefully I will (finally) read it!

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book! Fantastic review, Danya. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • HA! I was totally sleeping on the job, and didn’t actually see this on Edelweiss until the day before it was slated to be released. It’s a miracle the publicists even approved me, but I’m seriously glad that they did because HOLY WOW was this ever good! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about Like a River Glorious, because you’ve always got a unique take on things.

      Thanks, Alyssa! 😀

  • Glad this lived up to the hype! I also similarly don’t like when second books mirror much of the first book in series! Awesome Review!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

  • I haven’t actually read the first in this series but I’m loving some of the reviews that I’ve been seeing about this and I think that I really need to get to Walk on Earth a Stranger. Thanks for the great review!

    • OMG Di! You definitely need to pick up a copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger, it is soooo good! I will say that it isn’t exactly heavy on the fantasy elements though, so I’d recommend picking it up when you’re in the mood for historical fiction. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I love this series (your review of Walk onEarth a Stranger is one of the ones to convince me to read it). And yes, absolutely love Lee and Jefferson!

    • Yaaaaaay! Happy to push great books onto my blogging friends’ TBRs, haha. Lee and Jefferson are so adorable together. Total YA couple goals.

  • The first book in the series has been on my wish list for some time now, but I’m just not sure about the story, it might be a bit too intense and dark for me. I mostly enjoy light-hearted books and don’t know how well this series would work for me.

    Sabrina
    About Happy Books
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