I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Also by this author: The Crown of Embers, The Bitter Kingdom, The Bitter Kingdom
Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #1
Published by HarperCollins on September 22nd 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women, Young Adult
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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.
As you all know, I am a card carrying member of the Rae Carson fan club. I awaited Walk On Earth A Stranger with baited breath since 2013 — nearly TWO YEARS of waiting which is a lifetime in book blogger years. You guys, I remember before this book even had a title but the announcement was in the Publisher’s Marketplace and this was pretty much Gold Rush fantasy. I was excited EVEN THEN. Unlike the gold rushers, my hopes actually managed to pan out (see what I did there). Carson remains among my favorite authors OF ALL TIME with Walk On Earth A Stranger. I think you should know that this book is a departure from her Girl Of Fire And Thorns books, but there’s still some Carson hallmarks – excellent world building, be my best friend forever characters, check my heart and blood pressure pacing. I for real cannot wait for all of you to read this book so that we can discuss and talk about it.
You know how I love books that open with a bang? I am pretty sure I am not the only one. Yo, we all love books with these openings that make you want to grip your seat or your book or just grip SOMETHING because things are HAPPENING and it’s CRAZY. That’s the beginning of Walk On Earth A Stranger. Leah Westfall is hiding something. She’s like a water douser, but with gold. She has this magical ability to sense gold in the ground. Therefore, she knows that she’s got to keep it a secret because that is the kind of ability that gets abused and gets the wrong sort of attention. Right now she lives a quiet life with her Ma and Pa on their homestead in the South. This is antebellum South, FYI. Her dad, however, does not believe in slavery so they don’t own slaves. They just have a gun and some horses. There’s enough food to get by and some gold dust stored up under the floorboards. One day Leah is out of the house and upon return, she senses something isn’t right. She gets back and discovers that her parents have both been MURDERED. See, this is the bit of crazy that I am talking about. Her idyllic life is over. Now, Leah must change everything about herself and begin to make the journey west, away from her parents’ murderer and towards California, land of opportunity and gold. Yo, there is gold in this there book.
Leah, or Lee as she is known for most of Rae Carson’s Walk On Earth A Stranger is awesome as hell. Sure, she has this magical ability to sense gold, but that’s not what makes her awesome. She’s a fighter. She doesn’t just lay down and die after her parents are buried in the Earth. Hell no. Instead, she dusts herself off and holds her head up high and begins her plans to run away, because there’s this tyrant that wants custody of her because she’s still a teenager and somehow this person knows about her skills. So, Lee begins to make her way west, following the greatest trope of all time which is the gender bending trope. No simpering on Lee’s behalf. So, Lee manages to work various odd jobs with her horse after some harrowing adventures and she eventually finds herself on the way to meet a friend so she won’t have to make her journey alone. Girl has got some work ethic and I love it. She also makes mistakes along the way but is humble sort of and learns from them — another thing that I love. Lee isn’t a Mary Sue in any sense of the word. She’s the sort of character that you want to trumpet, if you know what I mean. Basically, she has that same sense of determination that hallmarks Elisa from The Girl Of Fire And Thorns. Girl has got true grit is what I am saying AND I LOVE THAT.
One of the things that places me solidly in the camp of Rae Carson is the best ever is her use of unique settings. None of this medieval European bullshit. (Granted, yes I am a fan of that) Walk On Earth A Stranger takes us some place unique and new. It takes me to a place that I’ve only visited in history class and computer class. Her latest book takes us to the Gold Rush era and along the Oregon Trail. Straight up, I am a huge fan of this setting. It’s interesting to me, how Carson can take real actual history and add in a fantasy element that does not seem super far fetched. There’s so much that happens in this time period that there is true drama. With the confluence of Westward Expansion, the Gold Rush, pre Civil War tensions and States Rights, there’s a jam packed timeline of this era. I loved that Carson makes fording a river come alive and fraught with as much drama as the Oregon Trail game. She makes seeing Independence Rock a turning point, just like the pioneers did. Furthermore, she does not erase people of color and that’s something I will expand on.
The thing that pushes me over the edge in a really good way for team Rae Carson is how she writes romance. HOLY FUCK YOU GUYS. So, okay, this book like all the other books that I love has a slow burn romance. Leah has been best friends with Jefferson since forever. Her parents’ land borders Jefferson’s family land. Like Leah, Jefferson is also a bit of a misfit because his father is a drunk and his mother is a Native American. Jefferson is desperate to get away from his awful dad and to maybe one day find his mother who left during Indian removal. And so, Jefferson hatches a plan with Leah to meet in Missouri. Here’s what I can tell you, at first Lee does not have feelings for Jefferson or if they are, they are buried. But over time, she comes to realize that maybe it’s more than just friendship. Throw in another girl in the mix and there’s jealousy and an epiphany. Of course there’s kissing in this book, you’d be disappointed if there wasn’t and so would I. There’s also so much more — that friendship turned love that only shared history can bring and ugh, I LOVED IT AND ATE IT UP AND YOU GUYS. Where is book two?
Remember how I said that Rae Carson’s Walk On Earth A Stranger does not erase people of color? WELL it doesn’t. In fact, there’s diversity up the wazoo in this book which is awesome and historically accurate, at least for a fantasy book about the gold rush. Here’s the thing, America of 1849 was not white. I know our history books basically show wagon trains of white people but that’s not entirely the case. Or at least my books did like 10 years ago. What is cool about this book is that there are Black characters who are more than slaves. For example, there’s this poignant moment where Lee comes across this man, Free Jim and he calls her out on her calling him ‘Free Jim’ and says to her something along the lines of we don’t call you ‘Free Lee’ so why call me ‘Free Jim.’ And it’s just this awesome, subtle epiphany about racism and norming and culture and oh my goodness this book is smarter than I am is what I am saying. There’s also scenes with the white people’s impressions of Indians and how the white men were total douchebags to the Indians. I liked that Rae Carson doesn’t shy away from this or whitewash the history of Indian removal, but instead makes it real and in your face. She still comes across as respectful though. Further, not all of the Native Americans in this book are one culture or from the same tribe which is cool because you can’t paint people with a wide brush. I would, however, like to see what a site like American Indians In Children’s Literature thinks of the portrayal of Native Americans in Walk On Earth A Stranger.
I essentially read Carson’s 432 page book in a single sitting – while I was en route to Mexico. My attention did not waver at all. I was drawn in immediately to Leah’s world and predicament. I found myself wanting her to hook up with Jefferson because that’s what I do with every book where there is a hint of a romance. I was a fan right of the bat of Walk On Earth A Stranger. Carson has a gift for weaving stories about head strong girls, magic, and unique settings. This book is among my favorites read in 2015 for it’s confluence of historical elements while also maintaining themes of feminism and social justice. This is the sort of book where I am satisfied with everything that I read but I am literally on pins and needles for the sequel. I think this is another book that you absolutely need in your life and trust, I am so right on this.