I received this book for free from Edelweiss, 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
Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #1
Published by Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins Publishers on September 22nd 2015
Genres: Historical, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
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.
Rae Carson has done it again. Walk On Earth A Stranger is so good, it’s so fucking good. Like, I didn’t actually mean to read this I just glanced at the first chapter to get a feel for it and the next thing I knew it was the middle of the night and I was finishing the book and whoops I’d been at a party and completely ignored all of my friends for hours while I read in the corner with earbuds in good.
First off, it’s straight up Oregon Trail. Given my vast knowledge of this historical era, provided exclusively by the MECC game, it is an extremely accurate portrayal of what it was like to load up a wagon and head west. You’ve got a supply list, there’s cholera and rattlesnakes and cows falling out of wagons while fording the river. They hunt buffalo. I love it. (Real talk, I read the acknowledgements and Rae Carson did a lot of research and definitely comes across like she’s got a good grasp on what she’s talking about). Having driven this route twice, I can say with an actual shred authority that the lush, vivid descriptions of the setting absolutely do it justice.
Secondly, Walk On Earth A Stranger is dripping with different varieties of awesome lady characters. Not every woman is badass and no nonsense, some are very quiet and unobtrusive but all of them are badass as fuck in their own way. You have to be to be able to head west, this trip devours people.
I adore Leah. She’s no nonsense and practical who still manages to retain a hint of wonder in a world that is determined to beat her down. I love how she slowly, believably learns to trust people, how she unflinchingly does what needs to be done, how she has a core of solid steel.
I think my absolute favorite character is Becky Joyner. Her arc is incredible. She starts off as a vaguely unpleasant, stuck up, subservient housewife with brief hints of strength and compassion that she continually smothers under layers of assholery and judgement but then when the time comes, straightens her shoulders and takes the world head on so gracefully and stoically, I cried, I squealed, I rolled around hugging the book (which was a big hit for everyone around me and tons of fun to attempt to coherently explain while completely emotionally compromised).
I’m not entirely sold on the ship. I think I could be as the series goes on but I’m not there yet. Jefferson (Leah’s bff from way back and object of her affections) is a nice guy and a great friend to Leah (most of the time) but I’d also be totally cool if they remained friends and a new love interest entered stage left (or, wacky thought, no love interest) (I didn’t mean it, I love when characters I like make out) (maybe it could just be a hook up interest) (idk how historically accurate that would be) (I mean I guess if Leah was a saloon girl?) (this is veering into fanfic territory).
I’m not really the best person to comment on this being of the caucasian persuasion, but I liked how the book navigated racism. It wasn’t a hugely touched upon thing but present both overtly and internalized/institutionalized much like, you know, life. Leah considers herself a pretty damn progressive person (which, obvs, given that she’s a girl who dreams of being a landowner in her own right in an era where that’s not a thing) but she still has a number of unintentionally racist ideas that various POC characters check her on and, best of all things, she internalizes what they tell her and learns from it. I liked that Rae Carson took the time to portray this.
My one major complaint, aside from not feeling the ship all that much, is that Leah doesn’t have any lady friends her age. There is one other girl her age in the wagon train that Leah starts to get to know and warm up to but that doesn’t pan out due to spoilers and it irritated me a lot a lot that the relationship between the two of them ultimately felt like both a hugely wasted opportunity and character. That said, I have enough faith in Rae Carson at this point to believe Leah will make more lady friends as the series goes on (but not this one which gives me a major sad because she’s awesome).
Also worth noting, this book is technically fantasy due to Leah’s gold dousing powers, but it comes across waaaaay more historical fiction/possibly magical realism (what exactly is magical realism?) than any kind of fantasy. The gold dousing plays a part in the book, but the way it’s woven in makes it seem like a totally normal part of the world as opposed to a fantastical magical power (to the reader, other characters are definitely hyper focused on it). I only mention this because I know a lot of people like their genres to be fairly clearly defined and it’s not so much here. Personally, I don’t totally care what genre a book is beyond deciding if I’m in the mood for that kind of thing and can’t totally be fussed about whether or not a book totally fits a certain genre classifications (until you try and tell me the Lunar Chronicles are fantasy because that is 100% incorrect and can everyone not).
Tl;dr, Walk On Earth A Stranger is an amazing book. If my word isn’t enough for you (I’m hurt), you may be interested to know it’s already garnering praise like whoa in the form of a starred review from Publishers Weekly and another one from Booklist as well as making the longlist for the National Book Awards as well as numerous blogger reviews. Basically, this series is going to be epic, possibly more epic than Fire and Thorns (I’m just saying, as far as I’m concerned, Walk On Earth A Stranger is a stronger opener than Girl of Fire and Thorns) (sorry GoFat, don’t get me wrong, I adore you) (but I also really adore this book) (I mean, I’d have to reread all the books to be 100% sure) (it’s a really fucking good book is what I’m trying to say) (check it out).
(Edit: For a more informed take on how the book handles Native American history and issues, check out Debbie Reese’s chapter by chapter notes (disclaimer, as it’s chapter by chapter, there are spoilers))