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Friday, June 15, 2018

Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Hardcover: 343 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: October 10, 2017

Series:  Gold Seer Trilogy #3

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Leah Westfall’s journey has been one of ever-present peril, hidden magic, harsh realities, loss, life, determination, and love. She has searched for a place to belong and a place to call home, and people who can accept a girl with magical powers that prove to be both blessing and curse.
Rae Carson has been lauded as one of YA’s best writers of fantasy, and fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, and Westworld will be riveted by the conclusion of this remarkable historical fantasy trilogy.
Leah is poised to have everything she ever dreamed of on the long, dangerous journey to California’s gold fields—wealth, love, the truest friends, and a home. Thanks to her magical ability to sense precious gold, Leah, her fiancé Jefferson, and her friends have claimed rich land in California Territory. But their fortune makes them a target, and when a dangerous billionaire sets out to destroy them, Leah and her friends must fight back with all of their power and talents.
Leah’s magic is continuing to strengthen and grow, but someone is on to her—someone who might have a bit of magic herself. The stakes are higher than ever as Lee and her friends hatch a daring scheme that could alter California’s history forever.
With a distinctive heroine and a unique interpretation of American history, Into the Bright Unknown strikes a rich vein of romance, magic, and adventure.

I never want Rae Carson's books to end, and this was no exception! Having made a deal with a deceptively smooth councilman for their town charter and needing to retrieve Becky Joyner's confiscated house, Leah Westfall and her band of pioneers journey out of their newly minted town of Glory, California to the big, high-stakes city of San Francisco to secure their future. When they arrive in San Francisco, they stumble into a much bigger extortion scheme and make an ambitious plan to fight for justice.

Most of this book is centered on San Francisco of 1849/1850 before California becomes a state. It brings to life a number of famously historical circumstances including the practice of sinking or grounding ships to establish or build real estate (SF Gate article). In fact, only within the last few years has it been more covered in the media that there are still actual ships buried under the streets of San Francisco (National Geographic article). I found this coverage of history, and my subsequent research, absolutely fascinating! I've been to San Francisco in the last few years, and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't visit the Maritime Museum. Anyway, one of the grounded ships is the vessel that brought Becky Joyner's house to San Francisco, and Leah decides to buy and turn into a sort of home since renting and living in San Francisco depletes their gold funds rapidly. The book illustrates the different uses many of the abandoned gold rush ships served -- as storage, hotels, homes, a jail, etc. -- which were all true in history.

Another of the book's history gems is bringing up the law of coverture (Wikipedia). When Becky Joyner goes to claim her house---and remember her husband is dead, the bank will not let her claim the property because, as they say, "a wife has no legal standing. All her rights are covered by, and thus represented by, the rights of her husband" which was known as the law of coverture. Since Becky's husband is dead and their son is not yet of age, the only one legally allowed to claim her house would be Becky's father-in-law back in Tennessee. This situation describes a very real and widespread problem for women and one of the driving forces behind the fight for women's right to vote as the majority of women couldn't hold property and therefore couldn't vote. It brings the law to life to view it through such strong female characters as Leah and Becky Joyner and hear their feminist voices discuss the ramifications.

Lastly, I love the character arc we've seen in Leah. She rises from scared runaway girl to wagon train leader to establishing a town to partially leading a civil rights rebellion and in this last novel, she certainly doesn't back down from greater heights. She and her fellows start a revolution in San Francisco against corruption and greed. She's also been practicing with her magic too, and manages several amazing feats. I'm not going to spoil any of these exciting plot developments here though. That's something you'll definitely want to read yourself!

The ONE question I still really wanted answered out of this series was just what happened with her mom? This question has been danced and danced around and we get closer here, but I just never felt true closure with this question. Alas, that's exactly how life is too!

We do see a few old friends (and enemies) surface. Relationships are built and furthered including that of Leah and Jefferson, though this is, as always, not the driving motivations in the book but rather a pleasant side-plot. I would love to see this series become a movie or tv show. It would be really cool to watch all of the history really come alive, especially that of San Francisco and the "Oregon Trail" west. I think this series might appeal to readers who loved Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Grey and Salt to the Sea and might be looking for something lighter but just as rich. It gives gold rush history a little bit of Leah's gold dust sense.


Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.

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