Acclaimed for her fantasy, Carson now travels the Old West.
Fifteen-year-old Leah lives on a farm near Dahlonega, Georgia, a town built around an early gold rush. She and her parents keep secret the fact that she has a mysterious "gold sense": she can find gold the way diviners find water, and despite the shabbiness of their homestead, the family is hiding 3 pounds of gold dust. When her parents are murdered and the gold stolen, Leah suspects her only living relative, who threatens to use her talents for nefarious ends. Leah and her childhood friend, a half-Cherokee boy named Jefferson, run away and join a wagon train headed toward California's newly discovered gold. Leah's narration details the adventures of their journey with a disparate group of travelers who often come across as archetypes more than fully fledged characters. There's the racist who attacks peaceful Indians, the selfish man who overloads his wagon with luxury goods, the runaway slave, the clueless itinerant preacher—none drawn with enough depth to make him or her memorable. Leah dresses as a boy for half the journey, and the revelation of her gender is accepted too readily to seem historically accurate. Along with other minor historical gaffes, Carson can neither sustain the tension of Leah's parents' murders nor put Leah's magical powers to interesting use.
The tepid, resolution-free ending beckons potential sequels. (author’s note, dramatis personae) (Historical fantasy. 12-14)