This is the second western novel I've read recently (VENGEANCE ROAD was the other) and I was definitely worried that they would end up being very similar. I need not have worried, though. WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is a unique novel with a tough and caring protagonist and a richly-drawn world.
The author does an amazing job at building the atmosphere of the novel. Lee's journey West is one of constant hardship. Anything could go wrong that could jeopardize the lives of everyone involved. As you read, you can really feel the toil and the stress of always having to watch your back, and even if you do everything right, something like cholera could end your life anyway. Disease, heat stroke, hunger, robbers...you name it, it's coming for you on the trail west.
It's a good thing that Lee is so tough and practical. She's used to hard work and doesn't balk at the daily grind of maintaining a wagon group. She also genuinely cares about the people she meets, even when first impressions aren't that great. Despite the fact that she's been betrayed and dealing with a terrible grief, it doesn't stop her from forming connections with her fellow wagoners. Her ability to sense gold is almost an afterthought to the realistic journey of a girl trying to escape. I thought magic would play a larger role in the story, and though it is the catalyst to some of the main action, it's also just a small part of her story.
What Left Me Wanting More:
While Lee feels fully fleshed out, I found myself feeling that the secondary characters weren't as developed. There's a full cast of characters, but only Lee felt truly real to me. I loved how even when she was in disguise, she stuck to who she was as a person.
The Final Verdict:
WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is a story full of danger and adventure set against the hectic and overpowering thrill of the 1849 Gold Rush.