In this sequel, most of the action centers around Leah Westfall and her band of travelers setting up a gold claim along the river in California. Then, evil uncle Hiram sends someone to grab her, and she spends the rest of the book in Hiram’s Gulch, the terrible gold mine her uncle is hoping to use to repay a debt to a powerful Sacramento landowner.
Only uncle Hiram still keeps a picture of Leah’s mother on his dresser– in the same dress he just bought for her. He also uses Indian and Chinese for slave labor. The conditions at the mine are terrible. Now this is YA, so alot of the terrible things are referred to obliquely or only certain aspects show. (I.e. the chinese cook, Mary, that Lee befriends is described as sitting on men’s laps alot, now adults would know what that meant, but it might have gone past my 13 year old, not sure).
Lee and her friends must stage a breakout from the mine and find their way back to their gold claim.
This is a fairly action-oriented book. We do get some bits of romantic resolution between Lee and jeff, and Lee’s witchy sense develops a bit further into something that ends up being highly significant at the mine, but there’s a lot of panning for gold, describing guns, burning biscuits, and fighting, too.
The historical details ring really true. That’s part of what I like about this series. I also like that Lee has to wrestle with being on the wrong side of the land grabbing in California in an ethical way. She sees what the settlers have done to the Indians. She also has to learn about compromise and keeping one’s mouth shut in the interest of the greater good. (a miner comes on to her in an insulting yucky way and she treats him politely instead of shutting him down as he deserved and ends up making a valuable friend).
The end of the book seems to wrap up the uncle problem, but introduces another potential antagonist.