Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
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Series: Yes, #1 in The Gold Seer Trilogy
Release date: September 22nd, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow (HarperCollins)
Length: 432 pages
Source: ARC from BEA/e-ARC via Edelweiss
Rating: Endless gold nuggets
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.
As always with Rae Carson the writing was EXEMPLARY. it absolutely sucked me in from the first moment. this was an accidental read for me, where I opened up the e-galley while lying in bed because I was just CURIOUS and then all of a sudden boom it was viciously late and there was no turning back. While I definitely found the pacing to be on the slower side, it's still an epic and gorgeously rendered book that gave me all the emotionals.
This is the story of Leah Westfall, a Georgia girl in 1849 with a secret: she has the magical ability to sense gold buried in the earth. If it's around her, she can sense it. It calls to her in a way that's almost painful or mad. She lives with her parents on their homestead, rather happily if not warily, because they have to hide Leah's secret or else BAD THINGS, SUCH BAD THINGS. Her best friend is Jefferson, who is half Native American and maybe wants to be more than friends.
Aaaaand then those bad things happen. Leah's parents are murdered, Jefferson takes off to search for gold in the wilds of California, and Leah's creeper uncle comes to "take care" of her. Dude might as well have a mustache to twirl, because Lee knows this SHIT AIN'T RIGHT.
So Lee does what any self-respecting fictional girl would do. She steals her horse back from her uncle, chops off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and sets out to join Jefferson on the Oregon Trail.
|YASSSS WESTWARD HO BITCHES|
I looooved the beginning bit where all this happened (though admittedly I wanted to sock Jefferson in the nuts). The next segment in the slow section. The first part of Lee's journey, when she's all alone, takes way too long, though it does culminate in an AWESOME AND TREACHEROUS journey down the river. But it also gave me the chance to fall completely in love with Lee Westfall, who is tenacious and hardworking and wonderful. But yeah, once Lee joins a wagon trail in Missouri and HEADS OUT WEST...YEEHAW, HO BOY, COUNT ME IN, LET THE GAMES BEGIN, IDK WHAT I'M SAYING
|how fucking dare you|
Danger everywhere, blood flowing, death count high, NO ONE SAFE. It was epically awesome. There were twist and turns and things falling and animals stampeding and did I mention death and destruction BECAUSE THERE WAS LOTS OF THAT. The realities of traveling in covered wagons across rivers and mountains and deserts were absolutely harrowing. I loved the details of the every day hardships, and I loved the intense action of the inevitable calamities that befell them. GAH, so good. While reading, I was so fantastically settled into the time period.
I've also totally loved the Oregon Trail since we learned about it in fifth grade and, yep, played the game all America children of the 80's and 90's seemed to play.
|I TOLD THEM NOT TO STOP AT THAT STAGNANT POND MOTHERFUCKERS|
We also wrote Oregon Trail journals from the POV of pioneer characters we'd made up and arranged in wagon groups and IT WAS AWESOME OKAY I STILL REMEMBER IT AS AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL HIGHLIGHT
|but i just fucking had cholera wtf|
I'll admit that I wanted more from the magic front, even though it was so cool and i loved how such a seemingly convenient magical gift is, in actuality, ANYTHING BUT. On the other hand, I know we're building to more magic stuff in book 2, and obviously I was absolutely thrilled with the Oregon Trail execution. I LOVED how it seemed to be about the people frequently ignored by historians and historical fiction: women, black people, Native Americans, queer people, the disabled, ETC. I loved the FOUND FAMILY FEEEELS and the way people are able to bond together in times of HORIFFIC STRIFE and what's that I have a gold nugget in my eye
This book also said a lot of tremendous things about gender and more importantly gender roles, which is the very best thing to come out of a lady-disguised-as-a-dude story, especially set in a time and a world like this one.
The very ending was a tad anticlimactic, almost comically so, but I can tell there is SO MUCH GOODNESS coming in the sequel. I'm ascared. Lee was fantabulous, and so were so many of the side characters, particularly the women. I like Jefferson well enough, and could be pulled onto that ship, but I also wouldn't be opposed to Leah meeting a super hot cowboy in book two, one who tips his hat down low and likes to lean against fence posts or speaks with an accent or something
|That's okay EVERYBODY gets dysentery in this game it's not so bad--|
Again, reading this book within a few months of reading Vengeance Road and Under a Painted Sky was a rather interesting and hilarious experience/coincidence, because hey really are all so similar, and yet are executed so differently. So I say just read them all, basically. WOO FOR GIRLS DISGUISED AS BOYS WITH MURDERED PARENTS IN THE WILD WEST DURING THE MID TO LATE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY WAHOO