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.
Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)Featured
That said, even though I’d been prepared for a fantasy, I was not disappointed in the slightest to find magic missing from the majority of WOEAS. Leah — who starts going by “Lee” early in the book, when she disguises herself as a boy — is an utterly compelling narrator, and Carson’s prose is simultaneously lush and gritty, masterfully evoking the visuals and sounds and smells of a late-1800s America. The staggering amount of research that must have gone into this novel is evident on every page, immersing the reader in the endlessly beautiful — yet unforgivingly harsh — American frontier.
Though the ensemble cast seems kind of sprawling at first, Carson skillfully manages to develop her characters into fully three-dimensional people after surprisingly little page time. It didn’t take long before I was rooting not just for Leah, but for the families and individuals traveling alongside her. I won’t name names, because some characters have pretty impressive arcs (and some, um, die), but suffice it to say, Leah isn’t the only one who ends the book loving these people like family.
For those of us who grew up playing the video game Oregon Trail, Leah’s journey will come with a distinct sense of nostalgia. While (spoiler alert) Leah never hunkers down for days on end to shoot squirrels, she, along with her fellow travelers, must ford rivers, maneuver covered wagons, manage sick oxen, and battle disease (although not quite as much dysentery as I remember from my Oregon Trail days). Though the wagon train’s trek to California moves agonizingly slowly, the plot never does. Carson is a master of infusing her story with moment-to-moment tension, and even when the characters were sitting still, I found myself flying through the pages.
As with Carson’s first series, [what I suspect will be] the main romantic subplot doesn’t get much exploration in this first book. While there are hints, this is a story of survival and endurance, not romance. However, as a fan of the slow burn, I thoroughly enjoyed the foundations that were so thoughtfully laid in this book, and I think that even readers who prefer a lot of swoon in their fiction will find that, while sparse, there are enough tidbits in this book to carry them through to the next one.
Overall, I found WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER to be a beautiful, vivid, and compulsively readable portrayal of life in Gold Rush-era America, with just a dash of magic. I unequivocally loved it. Whether you are a lover of fantasy or historicals or simply a good story well told, I think you’ll love it, too.
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.
I've had such luck with books lately! This book has been yet another anticipated read that met, maybe even exceeded my high expectations!
Lee has always been able to detect gold, enough gold to keep her family safe. She's kept it a secret, but someone knows and will do anything for the gold, and to have control of her. To escape, Lee decides to flee to California and meet her best friend along the way. But it's not easy, not at all, and she certainly can't travel as a girl.
The entire premise of this book is just so interesting! It's about a girl who can detect gold, during the Gold Rush Era. This was all done really well, and the plot did revolve around Lee's ability, but the setting actually felt more important. That sounds bad, but I actually loved it. This book includes Lee's journey to California, that's the majority of the book. While in some other books, I find traveling a bit boring, this was actually very interesting! Lee has to go through a lot to get to California, so there's not a dull moment, and the historical element was incredible! It really did feel like I was in that period!
I didn't realize this while going into this book, but it has one of my favorite tropes: a girl dressing as a boy. Major props in general for having my favorite trope, but it also was done in a very satisfactory way. Meaning: She was a boy for the majority of the book. Anyway Lee is a great MC. She's obviously strong and resourceful, she's able to go through so much and make it. Jeff is her best friend and he's also an amazing character! Actually, all the characters in this book are so well-developed, even the horrible ones!
Lastly, there isn't really a romance in this book. This is a shame because I was shipping things, but I expect romance in the next book. Maybe just a little bit?
Overall, I loved this book! It was as amazing as I expected! The plot was unique, the historical elements were fantastic, and all of the characters were incredible well-developed! I admit I am very curious what will happen next in this series!
I fell in love with Rae Carson’s writing while reading the Fire and Thorns series so I was really excited to hear she had a new book coming out, and that it was set in the old west. With how easily she made me care about the characters in her other books, I had high expectations of the characters in this one, and they were all met.
Lee was a wonderful character. She was strong, brave, sympathetic, vulnerable, and extremely likable. I liked that she started out physically strong, able to hunt, able to take care of herself, and that she was cunning. She knew some of what she needed to survive on the trail but she was also thrown into having to learn a lot more on the journey. She was doing all that while still grieving for her parents and keeping her abilities and gender a secret.
There were so many wonderful side characters. Jefferon, Lee’s childhood friend and crush, was her rock. Having left for California a few days before her, finding him was Lee’s main goal and kept her motivated when it would have been easier to turn around. The people she met on the wagon train she joined were all so different. Some were more developed than others but I especially enjoyed the college boys, Major, and Lucy.
Most of the book was comprised of the travel to California but it never felt slow to me. There was always something happening, or the sense that something was about to happen. The journey was treacherous and it showed. I couldn’t put it down. I liked that there were more lighthearted moments woven throughout the book as well to show that, even with all the danger, the families on the wagon train had hope of a better life.
The setting and protagonist were so different from the Fire and Thorns series but this was no less addicting to read.