Author: Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy, book #1
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Source: ARC received for review from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America.
Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?
Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, dazzles with this new fantasy that subverts both our own history and familiar fantasy tropes. Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.
You guys, I didn't think I could love Rae Carson's writing any more than I did after finishing the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, but then I read Walk on Earth a Stranger. Admittedly, the last time I read a summary for this book was back in May 2013 when I added it to my TBR on Goodreads. All I remembered was that it was historical fiction focusing on the California Gold Rush. Not necessarily my kind of story, but Rae Carson penned it so I knew I'd at least be giving it the old college try. But it was so amazing and brilliant and brought back memories of playing Oregon Trail in elementary and middle school. So, of course, while I was searching for the game online, I had to take a break from writing this review and play for a bit. =)
Lee is the exact opposite of Elisa from Carson's first series, at least in the beginning, and yet I loved her tremendously. Whereas Elisa initially shrunk away from her future and duties, Lee embraces what she has to do when her world is turned upside-down. Still, there are a lot of similarities between the two protagonists, too, because when push comes to shove, both of these girls let the fire burning within them reign supreme and they get the job done. And both are harboring secrets that could mean the difference between life and death.
When I said that this story reminded me of playing Oregon Trail while reading, I wasn't kidding. There are covered wagons. Yokes of oxen to pull them. Hunting and trading and river crossings that can turn disastrous. And disease that can take out a wagon train lickety-split like. (I'm still playing the game in another tab while I'm writing this, so I can vouch for all those things. :P) But while the game was fun and somewhat entertaining, this story was sad and heartfelt and a little bit hopeful. It tugged at my heartstrings and kept me on the edge of my seat because just like with that game, you never knew what the trail would throw at you next.
Walk on Earth a Stranger isn't just about what happens on the trail, though. We get to see a little of Lee's home life before she sets out on her own -- and what put her on that course -- and there's a smidge of a romance thrown in, too. I honestly wasn't expecting much on that front, since Lee has to dress as a boy the minute she decides on this quest of hers, but it worked and it was rather sweet. But the hard-earned friendships and trials and tribulations of the trail were definitely the driving force of the story.
The book also goes a long way toward encouraging acceptance in a time where there was little to be had: of African Americans, of gays, of foreigners...even of women as equals. I loved every aspect and found it entirely too difficult to put this book aside for any length of time. Lee's story just kept calling to me, the way the Oregon Trail is calling to me as we speak, and even though I have a multitude of other things to do right now. I never once found Manifest Destiny as intriguing while learning about it in school as I did while reading this story. It's well-researched, and it felt like reading the gritty journal of one who actually traveled across the continent to get to California.
Like I mentioned, I hadn't read the summary prior to picking this one up, and I was actually kind of hoping for a stand-alone, what with all of the other series I have yet to finish. But once I got to the end, I was pretty stoked to realize that there was more of the story to come. I can't imagine the hardships Lee and her wagon train faced, but I also can't get enough of them. Also, I want so badly to see some of the characters get the comeuppance they so richly deserve.
I highly recommend this story for my fellow thirty-somethings who got to play this game while waiting for others to finish up their tests or for anyone who just loves a good historical fiction that's not afraid to get its hands dirty. I will definitely be in line for the next book in this saga.
About the author:
I write books about teens who must do brave things. I'm originally from California, but I moved to Ohio to marry my husband, who is the smartest and therefore sexiest man I know. We live in Columbus with my teenaged stepsons, who are awesome. My books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. I especially love to write about questions I don't know the answers to.
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