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Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Monday, November 23, 2015

Walk on Earth
a Stranger

Rae Carson

Genre: YA historicalfantasy
Hardback: 432 Pages
Publication: September 22, 2015
by Greenwillow

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

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.


Walk on Earth a Stranger renewed my love of historical fiction—in particular, historical fantasies.

For some readers, the first third of the novel was slow. For me, these pages were the best part of this novel. The first pages reintroduced me to Rae Carson's beautifully descriptive writing while immersing me in Lee's world. Few authors can give you a strong sense of the protagonist's characters in the span of a few pages. The hunting scene not only introduces us to Lee's personality and her abilities, it gives us insight into her lifestyle and the world she lives in. While I would have loved to see more of her life with her family (love the strong, positive family relationship here), events do progress quickly from here on out—in a way that made me feel so much for Lee and her loss.

Lee is a fierce young woman. So much has been taken from her, but she doesn't back down from any challenge. In fact, she not only has a strong will, she can work as well or even better than most men, and she has the resourcefulness and wits to do what it takes to survive. And she is confronted by so very much. She must deal with strongly rooted prejudice: against her gender, against her best friend for being half Cherokee, against African Americans. She must face death and partings. She must face the hardships and dangers of crossing America with little to her name. She must face her fears of trusting others. Not to mention her newfound feelings for her best friend (though romance plays a very small role in this novel—she has much bigger issues to worry about). I like how Lee's powers don't entirely give her an edge over the others while on the trail. She may be able to sense gold, but it doesn't help her much with all the challenges that she must face. There is more historical than fantasy in this novel, and I love it the way it is.

All these challenges create many opportunities for action scene after action scene. Lee is a very brave young woman. While I do wish that she would rely more on others, it was pretty satisfying to see her tackle everything head on and prove that a woman doesn't need a man to protect her. Heck, the other women may not all do "men's work," but they prove fierce in spirit as well. Becky, Lucie, Mary, and Theresa are all women on the trail as well. Each of them show courage in the face of harsh trials. And Rae Carson does not hold back in showing us the dangers of the trail. There is violence, prejudice, cruelty, illness, suffering, and death.

I do wish that the story wasn't as fast paced as it was. I understand that Lee's journey west is a long one, but I really would have liked to see more development of the other characters and her relationship with them as they bond over the course of the journey. In particular, Jefferson was often left out of the picture. I'm usually the one complaining that there's too much romance in a story, but I really would have liked to see more of Lee's conflict over him and how their relationship moves forward over the course of their journey. For example, I wouldn't have known that she was avoiding Theresa out of jealousy if Jefferson hadn't brought it up one time. I would have liked to see more of Lee's non-interactions with Theresa to get the picture before Jefferson brought it up.

All that said, there was one scene that really bugged me as it seemed randomly inserted: someone invites her to travel West with him, but she decides to join the Joyners and never does talk to that guy again. I wonder if he'll play a larger role later on. Otherwise, that was a pretty random scene.

Overall, Walk on Earth a Stranger is a brilliant if not entirely historically accurate work. I am very much looking forward to reading the next installment in the series!

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 4 stars

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