I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #1
Published by Harper Collins on September 22, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
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. 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.
Nothing inspires more romantic fervor of the past than that period in American history that is best defined by the term manifest destiny. The idea that the US not only should, but had a divine endorsement to go from coast to coast, drove the desire of my ancestors to go west. (Or, in my case, west until they stopped around Iowa.) It has been romanticized in books and movies, poetry and painting, and Walk On Earth A Stranger takes you by the hand and urges you to let yourself imagine what it might have been like to travel so far and at such great risk, just for the chance of success. I think it’s safe to say that it is a human desire, not just one unique to Americans. Lee starts in Georgia, where she lives with her parents and tries to hide her ability to sense gold. I could see right away how this “gift” would be both a blessing and a curse, and you find out pretty quickly that the curse part of it means danger for Lee. When Lee flees with nothing more than a promise to meet her friend in Missouri, Lee disguises herself as a boy so she can travel freely. So, as you are reading this story, you are also aware that none of this would be possible for her if she were traveling as a woman, which was a brilliant way to highlight how different gender roles were in the 1850s. Lee is not the only one on a quest, of sorts. The people that Lee meets on her journey are all after something and they either sold everything they owned or took it with them in their wagon, and put their fates in God’s (and a guide’s) hands.
I’m sure that many of you remember playing Oregon trail and all of the horrible fates that could befall your family as you traveled West. The illness, the death, the misinformed fear of Native Americans – all of it was a part of daily life for these settlers and Rae Carson really brings all of it to life. I became very attached to some of the families, much to my detriment, because no one was safe from the elements or just plain old bad luck. The obvious care in research really made this book for me. The daily routines, the different types of people going west for different reasons; all of them made up this wonderful microcosm of society and they eventually became their own family. Lee’s struggle to keep her gender hidden really brought home how much easier things were for her as a man. The author did not shy away from the social tensions and inequalities of the time; racism and bigotry were also companions on the trail, as well. This was a time that, when a new state was added to the union, a decision would be made about whether it would be a “free” or “slave” state. While Lee’s abilities do play a role in this book, much of it was focused on her journey west, but that was fine with me. As world building goes, it was phenomenal. Obviously, I am very excited about this series. Walk On Earth A Stranger held me in its grip the entire time I was reading it, and I am very eager to see where Lee’s quest for independence and justice will lead her.