Kula Baker has spent most of her short life traveling from place to place with her father and his band of outlaws. When a villainous marshal frames Nat Baker for murder, Kula learns that a mysterious box holds the key to clearing his name. To find the box, Kula must journey from her home in Montana to San Francisco, a decadent boomtown still enjoying the fruits of the Gold Rush.
Turn-of-the-century San Francisco is a city of diverse neighborhoods, the wealthy mansions on high hills contrasting (and even clashing) with the teeming criminal underworld of the Barbary Coast and the exotic streets of Chinatown. Kula quickly learns the truth about the man who framed her father: he is involved in human trafficking, selling Chinese girls into slavery. Her new benefactor, Phillipa Everts, seems to be involved, but Kula isn’t sure how, and Will Henderson, a handsome banker’s son, may also be part of the scheme. The only person Kula is certain about is David Wong, a young Chinese man who helps Kula find her way and who continues to appear whenever she needs him most. As expected, the 1906 earthquake changes everyone’s lives and provides the story’s climax.
The love story, while pleasant, is superficial. Kula meets David, they’re attracted to each other, they realize a relationship between a Chinese man and a non-Chinese woman is taboo, and they fall in love anyway. The ramifications of their relationship aren’t explored at any length, and it happens quickly and without any depth of feeling, adding little to the plot. What is enjoyable is Kula’s heroism in the face of serious danger, and her developing sense of social justice. Teens 12 and up may enjoy Kula’s adventures in this quintessential New American metropolis.