February 23, 2016

REVIEW: Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1), by Rae Carson
Publish Date:
September 22, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format: ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: young adult historical fiction
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(Synopsis) Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Well, this was an unexpected surprise. I thought I was getting something different from Walk on Earth a Stranger than what I got. I thought it was a fantasy book with a bit of history woven in. What I got was exactly the opposite. 

Now, before I read a word, I would've said that was a bad thing. I love fantasy. Historical fiction isn't really my jam. I'm really glad I didn't know all this before I started, because then I may not have read this amazingly incredible book. 

Leah Westfall is a 15-year-old girl who leaves her native Georgia after the death of her parents and sets her sights on California and the promise of gold. It's early 1849, the California Gold Rush is just getting started, and women's lib is decades in the future. If Leah has a prayer of making it, she needs to become Lee McCauley, a boy willing to work his way west. 

If Leah can make it, she has a better shot than most at striking it rich. She has the uncanny ability to sense gold. I thought that this would be the main focus of the story, but in actuality, it was only a very small part to it. On the way to Cali, she doesn't have much of an opportunity to use her power, so there were many times I even forgot she had it. I have a feeling her ability will come into play a lot more in the next two books. 

Despite the low fantasy aspect, I loved this book. I never really understood what reviewers meant when they described a book as "sweeping" and "epic" until now. Walk on Earth a Stranger spans nearly a year, crosses 3,000 miles and introduces dozens of secondary characters. It highlights a lot of the hardships of the time - the difficulty everyone had traveling long distances, the inequality between men and women, the tension with the Indians, and the ineffectual means of treating sickness and injuries. 

Leah is an incredible character. She's unbelievably strong and so brave. To set out on such a journey alone - not to mention female - would have been considered suicidal back then. But, her parents let her be who she was when they were alive, and she refuses to be used and abused by her horrible uncle after they die. She's prepared to set out to make her own life or die trying. She does what she has to in order to survive, and it's not always easy, and it doesn't always make her feel good. 

Her best friend from home, Jefferson McCauley, joins her on her journey, and he too is an awesome character. His father was a drunken abuser and his mother was an Indian, so he has his own difficulties to face in this time. But, his constant and loyal companion has always been Leah, and I loved the way he protected her, and yet allowed her to be the only girl she knew how to be at the same time. 

I can't wait for the second book in this series to come out so that I can see what happens next. I suspect that Leah's mysterious gold-finding abilities and her manipulative horrible uncle will both feature more prominently in it and she, Jeff and the rest of their group settle in California and try to make a new life. This series certainly started with a bang, so I have high hopes for the rest of it. 

1 comment:

Anna said...

Great review, Krista!