Fairy Tale Friday: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

Spindle’s End, by Robin McKinley, was published in 2000 by Putnam.

Rating: 3/5

I’ve read both of Robin McKinley’s “Beauty and the Beast” retellings, but never her “Sleeping Beauty” retelling, so here I am to tackle this massive book.

Spindle’s End takes the Sleeping Beauty tale and crafts an entire fantasy world out of it, complete with slight references to McKinley’s Damar books (I caught one The Blue Sword reference but there may have been more). The tale itself is also slightly different from the original; without giving too much away, it gives Sleeping Beauty more to do and there really isn’t a prince figure of the sort prominent in the original.

With two Damar books under her belt, McKinley is used to spinning out more magic and details than were present in Beauty, and Spindle’s End is stuffed full of things. It’s almost too much at times—the beginning is ponderously slow, and the book really doesn’t start picking up until it switches to Rosie’s point of view, 150 pages in. The conflict at the end is almost too dense and confusing for the reader to fully grasp; I struggled to get through McKinley’s long sentences and heavy descriptions of magic and animals to understand what actually happened. And now, as I’m writing this review, I’m starting to realize just how little dialogue is actually in this book—there’s bits and pieces, but most of it is description. In fact, the largest sections of dialogue concern the animals, and they talk almost as ponderously as the descriptions.

People who like developed, built-up fairy tales will probably really enjoy Spindle’s End, but I think I prefer the simplicity of one like Beauty more. Perhaps if McKinley had a better balance of description to dialogue, or if the beginning weren’t so hard to slog through, I might have liked it better, because I did quite enjoy the middle bits. “Thoughtful fantasy” is a term I would use to describe this sort of work, though I’m not really sure what I mean by that. Lots and lots of description, maybe; that’s all I’m going to remember about this book in the long run.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2Qyas1o

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One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne, by Kendare Blake, was published in 2017 by HarperTeen. It is the sequel to Three Dark Crowns.

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, needs to figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, the elemental sister thought to be the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent….Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must confront the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

Rating: 2/5

One Dark Throne continues right where Three Dark Crowns left off, continuing the suspense and building the tension between the three sisters (and the three families and cities of the island). It’s a slower book than the first one, with the first 30% being romantic drama and the last 70% being a slow buildup to the final parts of the book.

I can see much more of the flaws of the world in this book that I couldn’t in the first, as the concept I found intriguing covered up a lot of it. However, One Dark Throne reveals just how thin the worldbuilding is—are there only these three cities and these three families that occupy them? There is no sense of scale, no sense of how big the island is or how many people live there, or even a clear sense of each city. Characters switch motives at the drop of a hat to propel the plot; there’s lots of tension between Jacob and Jules because of Mirabella, and while Blake seems to insinuate one thing, the characters ultimately end up doing another. Arsinoe indulges in low magic again, despite the failure in the first book, and it somehow works much better than before despite it being the same exact spell. Blake enjoys building tension with mystery and thinly veiled hints, but then fails to deliver fully, leaving confusing revelations behind.

And there are still way too many names thrown around to keep track of them all.

I heard that this book was supposed to be a duology, but is now a trilogy (or a quartet?). That puzzles me since this book isn’t stand-alone at all, nor does it end things satisfactorily; the decision must have been made before Blake published this book, which might explain why it’s so haphazard and filler-y in terms of plot.

I really enjoyed the concept of the first book, but nothing about One Dark Throne is compelling me to get the third book when it comes out. There are still mysteries to solve and questions to be answered, but nothing happened that made me care enough to find out what they are. The book is a mess of plot, character, and setting, behind a thin veneer of intriguing concept that becomes less intriguing the more you realize the flaws of the book.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Nothing explicit, but there’s lots of kissing and obvious sexual connotations.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2MVHn1A

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Choksi

The Star-Touched Queen, by Roshani Chokshi, was published in 2016 by St. Martin’s Press.

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. While Maaya is content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: as Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherwordly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Rating: 3/5

The Star-Touched Queen tells the story of Maya, who, forced into marriage by her father in order to avoid war, accepts the hand of an unexpected, mysterious suitor who then takes her into another realm, a land full of secrets. The plot reminded me of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” but I wouldn’t call this a retelling, as the book is very clearly based on Hindu mythology.

The setting of the book is rich and detailed; I haven’t read many Hindu/Indian settings in literature, and this one is beautiful. There’s lots of mythology thrown about that can get a little confusing, but Choksi integrates it very well. Choksi writes well, too, with great descriptions that stop just short of going overboard. There’s still a bit of polish that needs to happen—details often get lost, contradicted, or are given too brief explanations—but there’s lots of beauty in the writing.

The lack of tightness in the writing is a little more prominent in terms of the plot. Plot details are often sidelined for description; Amar is almost too mysterious and is too inactive (Maya is the one who does most of the work in the novel; Choksi is obviously going for girl power, but makes Amar almost impotent and useless as a character as a result.); and the pacing of the plot seems rushed and imbalanced. Maya wanders through Akaran discovering its mysteries for a long amount of time, then makes several quick, important decisions in the span of a few pages, then wanders around some more. The moments in the last few chapters of Part One, in particular, stand out as particularly poorly delivered: decisions are made and described too quickly, motivations seem thin, and cause and effect isn’t clear at all.

The Star-Touched Queen is an impressive debut, especially in terms of setting and description. The writing, beautiful as it is, could do with more polish, especially in terms of uniting description and plot. There were far too many moments that were covered up by hasty explanations or thin motivations. Maya herself was a good protagonist, with brains rather than strength, which I prefer. However, Amar was cardboard, and he seemed completely unnecessary even in his own role; his sole purpose was only to motivate Maya. I get it, it’s subversion of the damsel in distress trope, but I’ve seen it executed far more effectively than what is given here.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2Nf2Phh

A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl

A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl, was published in 2015 by Viking.

The Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy has one purpose: to train its students in the feminine arts, with an eye toward getting them married off. There are two problems, however. The academy is in a Yorkshire backwater, far from anywhere…and there are virtually no eligible men. A School for Brides is the very funny saga of how the eight Winthrop Hopkins girls manage to get around those constraints, and how those of marriageable age snare the man (or future) of their dreams.

Rating: 3/5

A School for Brides is the companion/sequel to Keeping the Castle, that lovely Jane Austen-esque novel that I enjoyed to bits. Unfortunately, this book has very large shoes to fill, and doesn’t fill them successfully.

There are so many characters introduced at the beginning that it is quite difficult to keep track of them all. Eight female characters are introduced almost simultaneously, and then several male characters are thrown into the mix, making it hard to differentiate between all the different female characters as well as the male characters. So for the first third of the book, I found myself foundering a little bit, trying to remember who Miss Evans and Miss Asquith are, and then trying to remember who their love interests are, and then trying to differentiate between the love interests.

Once the characters solidify, however, it is easier to tell them apart, and Kindl somehow manages to give each of them a different personality and a different story. It’s hard to really root for one romance over the other, as we never get enough of the characters’ thoughts and feelings, but the one romance that is focused on more than the others (at least in my opinion) is sweet. We also get some instances where a budding romance turns into nothing, and that’s fine, too.

A School for Brides is fun, but it lacks almost all of what I found so enticing about Keeping the Castle. Kindl tackles a little bit too much: telling eight different stories is hard to do in such a short book, and so we don’t get as much character depth and focus. Things aren’t too serious, and a lot of what happens is played for laughs, but there’s a lack of substance to the whole book. I enjoyed it, but I wish the scope had been more narrow and that the focus was on one or two of the characters, rather than four or five.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2osYTLU

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

The Queen’s Rising, by Rebecca Ross, was published in 2018 by HarperTeen.

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in the southern kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron. Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved, some closer to Brienna than she realizes. With war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood .Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. Who will be that queen?

Rating: 4/5

The Queen’s Rising was the sort of book where I knew pretty much everything that was going to happen, but I enjoyed the book anyway. While it’s fairly formulaic, it avoided many of the pitfalls that YA fantasy books can fall into. Brienna is a capable protagonist, but not annoying; the romance is subtle; the world and the plot make sense and are interesting. Best of all, it’s a self-contained novel: though it’s not a stand-alone book, it could easily be one. There’s no contrived, cliff-hanger ending to entice you into the next book. Everything is wrapped up nicely.

Ross’s writing is beautiful, but can sometimes stray into the “strange description” territory, such as “I smiled, the laughter hanging between my lungs.” What is that even supposed to mean? Besides her occasional bouts of eyebrow-raising-description, Ross’s writing is smooth and succinct when it should be, and flows well. It’s also not in present tense, thank goodness.

As I stated, the plot is really predictable; I guessed all the reveals pretty close to the beginning of the book, and nothing really surprised me. However, Ross doesn’t go with the obvious tropes all the time, which is good because it would have made me like the book significantly less. The plot is formulaic, but not stuffed with old tropes, so I got to enjoy the ride and not get annoyed at the lack of originality. There’s a good moment near the end of the book where Brienna has a choice between two options and I liked that Ross sort of acknowledged that one choice would have changed the whole feel of the book (to me, at least). I like that Brienna, though important to the plot, isn’t an absolutely central character to the world. I like having protagonists who are more on the fringe because it’s more relatable.

The Queen’s Rising has some flaws, but I really enjoyed it overall. The writing is beautiful, though sometimes strange, the romance isn’t annoying, and though the plot is predictable, it’s detailed and developed enough that things make sense. I loved that it read as a stand-alone novel, too. I will be keeping an eye out for more books by Ross.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2N5tmNV

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake, was published in 2016 by HarperTeen.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

Rating: 3/5

Three Dark Crowns has an interesting premise: three sisters following an age-old tradition of familial murder (sororicide) in order to be crowned queen. What makes it so interesting is that the three sisters are all the protagonists, which immediately means the reader is thrown into the position of being in the heads of all of them, of relating to all of them, of knowing that no matter what the outcome, one of these viewpoint characters may have to die. I say “may have” because I’m not entirely sure any of the three girls will die, although I’m guessing at least one will. I’m also guessing that there’s going to be an overthrow of the old system before the series is over. There’s already a hint of it in the reveal at the end, that this year, this generation, will be different than the last, and I’m guessing either the sisters will find a way to all survive, or one of them will sacrifice herself to save the others, or something like that.

Books like this really hinge on worldbuilding, and Blake did a decent job of it, though some things could have been smoother. The chapters with Arsinoe and the naturalists were especially choppy, with most of the worldbuilding and background established by throwing names of characters around and expecting the reader to remember them all. There’s never a moment when it feels as if the characters are explaining things that they should already know, but Blake goes a little too far in the other direction, and doesn’t explain things enough.

I think of all the sisters, my favorite is Katherine, if only because she’s not involved in a dumb romantic plot (Mirabella) or hampered by clunky worldbuilding and overshadowed by a more powerful, more memorable character (Arsinoe). I also find weaker protagonists more interesting, and though Katharine also had a romantic plot, hers was far more interesting (especially at the end of the book) and far less infuriating than Mirabella’s.

Let’s talk about that dumb romance for a moment. The main problem with it is that Blake apparently expects us to believe that a relationship founded upon a tryst in the woods where one of the people was suffering from hypothermia, and afterwards the characters spend maybe three hours in each other’s presence total, with the boy realizing that the former relationship he had with another girl, which is founded upon years of friendship, isn’t enough compared to the physical aspect of the relationship of a girl he knows nothing about, is a good and legitimate ground for a “relationship.” Sure. Okay.

Beyond that completely infuriating and meaningless romantic plot, as well as the annoying use of present tense, Three Dark Crowns was interesting enough that I think I will follow up with at least the next book. The reveals at the end have piqued my curiosity, and I’d like to know if my guesses about what will happen are correct.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Nothing explicit, but there’s lots of kissing, lots of mentions of “fire” and “heat” and obvious sexual connotations.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2BoadlP

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King, by Tricia Levenseller, was published in 2017 by Feiwel and Friends.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Rating: 1/5

Daughter of the Pirate King reminded me of what I hate about certain young adult novels: one-dimensional characters, predictable romance, uninspiring prose, and way too many lingering gazes and “almost but not really” intimate moments.

Let’s start with the main character, Alosa, who’s this “I can take care of myself” female protagonist. And she can, for the most part, at least in the fighting department (which, by the way, when described by Levenseller, never seems as if it should actually work). She’s one of those “super strong, super tough, I can beat up lots of people and kill without thought” female protagonists. Of course, once she runs into her love interest, she meets her match, at least in terms of cleverness if not strength. That’s part of the attraction (of course), although it’s mostly his looks and his sensitivity (of course). But since a perfect protagonist doesn’t really make for a good plot, there are times when Alosa is remarkably dumb and/or rendered incompetent just so that the plot can progress; then, she returns to her normal capability as if nothing odd has happened.

There’s also the “requisite” attempted rape scene, because of course there is. And that’s where the author really runs into a snag because she’s framed Alosa as the type who can take care of herself. So, Alosa does take care of herself because she’s the type who doesn’t need a man to rescue her. However, then she gets angry at Riden for not helping her, despite her repeated insistences that she can take care of herself, and it seems as if Levenseller also wants the reader to get mad at him, too (or not? It’s hard to tell). That’s inconsistent narrative; either 1.) Riden should have helped her because he was right there, and doing nothing was abhorrent or 2.) Alosa doesn’t need a man to rescue her, no matter what’s happening. If you get mad because Riden didn’t help, then you must think it’s all right for men to rescue women (gasp!), and it’s an acknowledgement that Alosa can’t do everything (which is fine).

I’m not sure if that was understandable; I just thought it was interesting how Levenseller has a woman rescue herself from a situation, like people love to promote, then describes the woman getting mad at a man for not helping, when people usually decry scenarios when women need rescuing by men.

Or maybe we need to start acknowledging the fact that helping people, regardless of their gender or their ability to take care of themselves, is something that’s morally good and that we should actively strive to do.

Anyway, moving on to the plot: it’s fairly interesting if you remove the romance, though Alosa does absolutely nothing to further her goal once she’s on the ship and simply has flirty exchanges with Riden. There’s a reveal at the end that’s a bit obvious, and other than that it’s fairly straightforward and predictable. There’s attempts at humor, mostly in Alosa’s continuous “witty repartee” and, of course, the dreaded romance, which I really don’t want to talk about because it’s so unoriginal.

Daughter of the Pirate King was a book that I started out hoping I would enjoy, only to get more and more annoyed with each page. I almost stopped reading it halfway through, but I need to have some low ratings on this blog, after all.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2OHBiTu

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Keeping the Castle, by Patrice Kindl, was published in 1978 by Dutton.

Seventeen-year-old Althea bears a heavy burden on her slender shoulders. She must support her widowed mother, young brother, and two stepsisters who plead poverty—and she must maintain Crawley Castle, a tumbledown folly designed and built by her great-grandfather. Althea, in short, must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors—or suitors of any kind—their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then Lord Boring comes to stay with his aunt and uncle. Althea immediately starts a clever, stealthy campaign to become Lady boring. There’s only one problem; his cousin and business manager, Mr. Fredericks, keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans…

Rating: 5/5

Keeping the Castle is a fun, sweet, short historical romance akin to Jane Austen (though only in plot, not substance) or Georgette Heyer. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is, but I didn’t find myself caring in the least bit—I had a smile on my face the entire time. It’s cute, it’s indulgent, it’s funny—a lot like Blackmoore or Edenbrooke in terms of how I felt about it, but better written then those two books, I thought.

The book does have a very Austenian plot, a little bit of a mix between Pride & Prejudice and Emma. There’s a lot of focus on money and class, and the tension between the “Old Money” and the “New Money” classes is very clear (Althea is horrified at Lord Boring’s shop-owning cousin, Mr. Fredericks, and his bumbling, rude ways). There’s nothing surprising about the plot in terms of romance, though there are one or two interesting things that happen along the way that are slightly unexpected.

I feel like Kindl had a great time writing this book; it’s very tongue-in-cheek (Lord “Boring,” Dr. Haxhamptonshire (pronounced “Hamster”), etc.) and really it feels like Kindl wanted to capture a lot of Austen charm without the more advanced language and with a bit of a modern touch (in terms of writing, not in terms of setting).

Keeping the Castle was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I love books like these, especially ones that are written to be funny, as opposed to those which are meant to be serious but wind up being humorous because they’re trying too hard. It was a great relaxing, de-stressing book, and I want to read all of Kindl’s other novels now.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2M6SCjj

Fairy Tale Friday: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted, by Meagan Spooner, was published in 2017 by Harper.

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. She knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. But Yeva’s grown up far from her father’s old lodge, raised to be part of the city’s highest caste of aristocrats. Still, she’s never forgotten the feel of a bow in her hands, and she’s spent a lifetime longing for the freedom of the hunt. So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortunes may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s heard about only in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin—or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Rating: 3/5

It’s nice to have some fodder for my Fairy Tale Fridays again! Hunted is a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in Russia, complete with Russian fairytales. Yeva, the daughter of a merchant who recently lost his wealth, has to go after her father when he doesn’t return from hunting one day. In the woods she encounters a Beast who takes her back to his ruined castle when she becomes injured.

Hunted plays out very much like the familiar Beauty and the Beast fairytale, though there is some added lore with the Russian fairytales, and hunting is a predominant theme. Spooner really amps up the idea that Yeva/Beauty is the one saving the Beast, but it’s not as annoying as this sort of reversed trope can be. The added lore helps flesh out the retelling, though it does get confusing at the end, and adds even more magic to the original. My favorite “Beauty and the Beast” retelling will always and forever be Robin McKinley’s (for nostalgia purposes, mainly), but Hunted is, in my opinion, quite unique in the way it transforms and adds to the original.

I had to chuckle at the nod to Stockholm Syndrome that Spooner makes in this book. It’s a great moment because Spooner herself has to avoid the same complaints people make about “Beauty and the Beast” while retelling the fairytale. I actually don’t know how successful she is, personally, as I’ve never really had a problem with that aspect of the fairytale, but having that time where Yeva didn’t realize that her friend was the Beast helped, as it more fully illustrated the human/beast divide that is central to the book. It also made Yeva’s falling in love with the Beast more realistic, as she had those moments of humanity to fall back on.

The one part that really bothered me was the epilogue. That’s when Spooner’s modernist interpretation came roaring to the front, even more so than in Yeva’s clichéd retreat from married life and “boring” conventions of the time. To be honest, the entire end of the book unraveled my enjoyment of it, as that’s when it started to get the most loose in terms of plot and pacing. I suppose I shouldn’t have forgotten that Spooner is also the co-author of a book that I despised for its presentation of a romance relationship, but I guess I’m eternally hopeful that relationships will be portrayed in actually healthy ways as opposed to what society thinks is the best way to show them.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Young Adult

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2JGv1DY

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

Like a River Glorious, by Rae Carson, was published in 2016 by Greenwillow. It is the sequel to Walk on Earth a Stranger.

Lee Westfall survived the dangerous journey to California. She found a new family in the other outcasts of their wagon train, and Jefferson, her best friend, is beginning to woo her shamelessly. Now they have a real home—one rich in gold, thanks to Lee’s magical ability to sense the precious metal in the world around her. But Lee’s Uncle Hiram has survived his own journey west. He’s already murdered her parents, and he will do anything to have Lee and her talents under his control. No one is safe. When he kidnaps her, she sees firsthand the depths of his depravity. Lee’s magic is changing, though. It is growing. The gold no longer simply sings to her—it listens. It obeys her call. Will that alone be enough to destroy her uncle?

Rating: 2/5

All my worries about a potential sequel to Walk on Earth a Stranger, a book that stood alone with little to carry into another book, came to fruition in Like a River Glorious, which is ultimately a pointless sequel that tells the same story as the first book, only without the going west part.

The only character change in this book is that Leah’s gold-seeking changes in depth and power. Otherwise, the characters are the same: Hiram is flatly evil, and little is revealed about his relationship to Leah’s parents or why he killed them (specifically, why he killed Leah’s mother, since it seems pointless to have done so. Carson reiterates over and over that women are powerless in the eyes of the law, so there’s really no reason for Hiram to have killed Leah’s mother. Rage, perhaps, at her apparent betrayal?). Jefferson is typical Love Interest Boy, meaning he’s uninteresting, and Leah spends most of the book being criticized for what other people are doing.

Speaking of the latter, Carson uses this book as a mouthpiece for her modernistic ideas of 1849, and spends the majority of the events making sure the reader knows exactly how Leah is responsible for the abuse of Native Americans and how she should feel terrible about it, and how people should feel guilty for owning land and never own land because it all belongs to the Native Americans.

By the way, Carson, I hope you’re practicing what you preach and don’t own any land yourself.

Also, wow, does she take some liberties with history. Some of it is explained away at the end in an author’s note (mostly consisting of “I wanted to bring this to light earlier than when it actually happened so it would fit my narrative”), but Carson conveniently left out the fact that women could actually own property at that time, despite the many, many times it’s stated to the contrary in the novel.

Highlighting the abuses of the time isn’t a bad thing, but filtering it through modernistic views is problematic. And regardless of accuracy of depiction, Carson’s constant preaching and guilt-tripping only caused me to want to never pick up the last book in the trilogy. I also can’t see what would be in a third book, since once again, everything is wrapped up neatly in this book.

Like a River Glorious reminded me of what I hate about young adult literature: the constant authorial preaching, the filtering of events through modern lenses, pointless romance, and the manipulation of historical data to fit one’s particular narrative. I have no desire to pick up the last novel in the trilogy, or read anything by Carson ever again.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

“Slow down,” I tell Olive. “You have to let the gold settle. Do you see it?”

“Where?” she asks.

All I mean to do is point, but it seems as though the flake lifts out of the water and sticks to my finger, just as if I called it. It’s the strangest feeling, like a static shock when it touches my skin.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2ttmBwS