by Rae Carson
Series: Gold Seer Trilogy (Book 1)
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (September 22, 2015)
Goodreads | Amazon
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. Walk on Earth a Stranger begins an epic saga from one of the finest writers of young adult literature.
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 series, dazzles with the first book in the Gold Seer Trilogy, introducing a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance, as only she can.
Have you read Rae Carson's other books, Girl of Fire and Thorns series, about Elisa with her weirdly supernatural navelstone as she does super heroic things for her gorgeous kingdom? (Note: she must have based this series off of me, because I am almost as queenly and magically powerful her heroine Elisa is). With that brilliant Rae Carson series as our guide, all of us fantasy lovers have been anxiously waiting for Rae Carson's latest book, Walk the Earth a Stranger, to come out.
Not to make you sad or anything, but if you are expecting fantasy and magic, don't. In fact, totally switch genres--this book is essentially a historical fiction with a smidgen of a superpower thrown in. Even so, it is still pretty good.
Leah, our heroine, rocks. She is brave, she is strong, not afraid of hard work and I love seeing her figure out who she as she grows up and deal with her fears on her journey to California. She doesn't mind acting like a guy to survive, or even showing an ankle while riding her horse (scandalous!). She is the essence of courageous.
The other main character whom we see through the whole story is Jefferson. I liked him too but I still feel like to me he is just an acquaintance although there was no shortage of him around. I hope to get to know him more in the next books as he is undoubtedly a good guy to have around. I particularly love how much he respects Leah--he is the kinda guy who you know will stand behind some to help them be the best person they can be.
As this story is mostly about traveling from the East to the West, almost everyone we meet is part of Leah's travelling party at one point or another. I love the broad-range of people we have, from slaves to prim-and-proper religious folks, from "confirmed bachelors" to immigrants and scum-bags.
I loved following this group of people. I can't even imagine what traveling in such closeness for so long would be like, blending all these cultures and opinions. Let's just say there is always some tension with another person, often a relevant issue to the day which was fascinating to see.
Leah does have a magical talent for finding gold, which is why I thought there would be a lot more paranormal stuff than there was in Walk the Earth a Stranger. This is essential to the plot, and proves a useful skill and secret, but it actually isn't what the story is about at all. I have the feeling that Leah's particular brand of magic will be more of a thing in the following stories.
It isn't clear at the beginning, or even at the end exactly what is happening in the romance area, but I will leave it at that as to not give anything away. But, I'll just say that if you want a tried and true love story, this isn't for you.
This book was all action and was also pretty much Walk on Earth a Stranger's saving grace. I like historical fiction, but only if there is a lot of love and action. This one especially excelled in keeping us from boredom. Murder, running away, bandits, rapids, deserts, deaths, childbirths, Indians, stampedes, diseases--these and more kept this book rolling. I loved it and was anything but bored. I would MUCH prefer to read this to learn about the past than any textbook or pretty much any other historical fiction I've read about pioneers (which isn't many, unless you count the American Girls).
What I liked:
I loved learning all the things about living in the mid-1800's for the gold-rush! Being a native Californian, I grew up learning about it the gold-rush in school as it is such an essential part of history for us on the West Coast. Heck, I even panned for gold once and actually found a very, very, very small flake!
This book was incredibly good at pushing me into this time period, even though it isn't a time period I particularly like. But I still loved it! It was like the computer game I did as a kid--the Oregon Trail--coming to life with characters, stories, and wagon trains. I have a quilt made by some very far-back relatives who sewed it while crossing the states and I can appreciate their tenacity in a whole new way.
What I didn't like:
Despite my initial disappointment that this wasn't really a fantasy, there were actually only a few things I didn't like. These were mostly a few threads I couldn't wrap up (why did the author bother to introduce us to them if they aren't in the story?) or that somehow people either weren't figuring things out, or did and I am not sure how. There was also a major plot hanger at the end of the book that I really felt could have been worked through better and in more depth, even though I know it will come up again in the series.
These points were all pretty much really minor, though.
The only things that really bothered me were not the story itself, but the way it triggered reactions in me--like their response to racism or slavery, or what really set me off was the lack of rights for women, or people who claimed to be preachers but totally didn't represent following the Bible in their actions. Although all those things made me mad, it actually made me like the book more for being bold enough to not hide the social issues that still are living and breathing in our culture, over 150 years later.
Should you read it?
If you want to learn about the California gold-rush, wagon trains, or being a teenage girl/woman in 1850, you should undoubtedly read it. If you like historical fiction or action and adventure just in general (I fell into this category) you might like it too.
Ethereally and unequivocally penned by Elisa (@AverageAdvocate) at www.AverageAdvocate.com “Inspiring the average American to change the world.”
She also dabbles in fiction hidden amongst others occasionally at www.LesNomsDePlume.com. She also really needs a new picture, because she hasn’t had red hair in like, forever.
Violence - Mild
Clean Read, with some more adult themes