Monday, June 6, 2016

Review: Through the Shadows

Through the Shadows
By Karen Barnett
The Golden Gate Chronicles, #3
Abingdon Press, 2016


As San Francisco rises from the ashes, an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings.

The devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is not so easy to overcome---and neither are the past regrets shadowing Elizabeth King's hopeful future.

Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.

Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles McKinley---a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco's crooked politics---Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?

My thoughts

“No matter how hard the officials try to make us
a showpiece, this will always be a gold rush town,
complete with cooked streets and crookeder politicians,
not to mention countless houses of ill repute.”

Through the Shadows is a moving, compelling, and thoroughly satisfying conclusion to Karen Barnett’s outstanding series, the Golden Gate Chronicles. Set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, this series vividly conveys the feelings and emotions of that time – from fear, loss, and destruction to determination, courage, and hope. Through the Shadows, which opens in 1908, is very impressive with its historical authenticity, rich characterization, and spiritual impact.

First of all, can I just say how much I enjoy having Charles pictured on the cover?! Kudos to the design team, because I long for more pictures of leading men on book covers. Also, readers of the previous books will enjoy the appearances of Robert King and Abby from book #1, Out of the Ruins, and Ruby King Marshall and Gerald from Beyond the Ashes. (Click on title to see my review.)

I love the inspiration behind Through the Shadows – the real-life ministry of Donaldina Cameron, who served at San Francisco’s Presbyterian Mission and is credited with the rescue of 3,000 Chinese girls from slavery and prostitution. It’s great when a work of fiction leaves you with the desire to learn more, and I recommend visiting the website Karen provided, It’s interesting to see that many of the vices of this era – intolerance, political corruption, sex trafficking – are still with us today.

Elizabeth and Charles are wonderfully appealing characters, easy to identify with. Charles became a lawyer for the worthiest of goals, to give voice to those who couldn’t speak for themselves, and joining his uncle’s law firm involved him in the King family’s financial loss from the earthquake. The compassionate Elizabeth, carrying the guilt of a past sin, felt God’s call to volunteer at the mission – and her spiritual journey is one that we can all relate to. As a pianist myself, I was especially drawn to Elizabeth and found the scene where she played Amazing Grace at the mission musicale very moving.


What if true faith wasn’t about the good things she did for God?
What if it was about what Christ had already done?
- Elizabeth

I was inspired by the spiritual themes woven throughout, and if I had to pick one word to describe this story, it would be grace. Elizabeth, having no real concept of God’s grace initially, worked hard to make amends by being a good person and serving others – a mentality that can be easy to fall into.  Her spiritual journey is at the heart of this story and speaks to us also.

Through the Shadows has that perfect blend of fascinating historical backdrop, appealing characters, and spiritual depth. Highly recommended.

Visit Karen’s Pinterest board to get a vivid feel for this era.


Karen Barnett is the author of Beyond the Ashes, Out of the Ruins, and Mistaken. Named the 2013 Writer of Promise by Oregon Christian Writers, Karen lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband and two kids. When she's not writing novels, she loves speaking at women's events, libraries, and book clubs.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Abingdon Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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