I loved this book from the moment I saw the cover – I have bloodhound senses for westerns, and I knew this book was exactly what I needed in my life. I was so right. The majority of the book takes place on a wagon train headed to the Calofornia goldfields, and I cannot explain how very happy that made me – thank you, creators of The Oregon Trail computer game – you instilled a lifelong obsession! This book is going to make so many readers so happy that they took a chance on it. I don’t care if you hate historical fiction or if you dislike westerns or if you didn’t like Rae Carson’s other books – this book is absolutely worth your time. You can sample the first chapter (which includes author annotations and sketches) via this link if you don’t want to take me at my word.
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?
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.
Action, adventure, romance and lessons about loyalty and family make this both a joy to read and a book to ponder. The protagonist, Lee is a smart, determined, and tough girl, and she is also one of the most lonely souls in YA fiction right now. Readers will be drawn to her character, not just because of the empathy her situation evokes, but also for her innate goodness. She wants so much to embrace the people around her, but her secret forces her to keep a part of herself back, and others sense and respond to that distance. That is what makes her plight universal – almost everyone has experienced the isolation and sadness that come with having to keep part of yourself concealed. The cast of secondary characters do initially feel repelled by her standoffish behavior, but as her true nature begins to shine through her disguise, they are drawn to her – You can change your appearance, but you usually can’t hide who you really are. I’ll admit this book wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I am not in the least disappointed. I was expecting more of a quest, and I worried it would be too close to the other western YA that just published, Erin Bowman’s Vengance Road (excellent read as well). This book is more about Lee’s journey West than a quest for gold or revenge, but it is also her journey towards finding her place in the world. There is plenty of action and conflict, but it was quite contemplative as well. It is well paced to develop the plot, the characters, and the relationships. I didn’t savor it because I devour good stuff, but I know it is a book that I will come back to time and again. The resolution, while satisfying, does leave room for additional books in the series, and I will certainly be looking forward to reading them. Five star perfection!
I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.