Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae CarsonWalk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #1
Published by Greenwillow on September 22, 2015
Genres: Historical, Magical Realism, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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five-stars

The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America.

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? Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, dazzles with this new fantasy that subverts both our own history and familiar fantasy tropes.

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.

HOT DAMN. I decided to sneakread Walk on Earth a Stranger back in April. Inevitably, I knew there would be a lot of hype surrounding Rae Carson’s latest effort, and I know that hype can completely ruin my reading experience or enthusiasm for a book, so obviously I decided to be a hype-maker and read it early. Yeah, sorry, guys. To be fair, I’ve been very quiet about my reading until posting my review today. Now, though, I can officially announce how incredibly amazing this book is and that it blows Fire and Thorns out of the water, at least for me personally.

From the very first, I loved Leah Westfall. She’s incredibly hard-working, has wonderful parents, and sass for days. She’s one of those heroines who totally kicks ass without there being any special fighting prowess involved. Leah wins through her inner strength and her indomitable spirit. She goes through some of the worst things imaginable, but she always forces herself back up and keeps trying. I have so much admiration for her. Just so much.

gif cowgirl olivia wilde cowboys and aliens

Leah and her parents have a completely wonderful relationship. Though her dad is now sick and she has to do most of the work to support the family, she doesn’t begrudge them that because they make her feel loved and she loves them in return. Her dad, Lucky Westfall, has a secret: he’s not the lucky one. He got his nickname from his ability to find gold even in the played out Dahlonega area, the gold rush long over; actually, it was Leah who found the gold, born with the witchy power to sense gold. This is, so far, the only magic in Walk on Earth a Stranger, and I love the magical realism touch to this historical setting.

Things get worse for Leah really quickly. Her parents are murdered, her best friend Jefferson sets off for the California gold rush, and her creepy Uncle Hiram shows up expecting to mine her talent for all it’s worth. Without any rights with which to escape Hiram, Leah resolves to run away from everything she’s ever known to journey to Independence where she will hopefully find Jefferson. See why I respect this girl? Oh, also, best of all, Leah goes undercover as a boy, traveling as Lee McCauley.

gif horse cowgirl

The genderbending in Walk on Earth a Stranger is most excellent. Obviously, Leah enjoys the freedom of being able to do what she wants, but it constantly grates on her that she has to pretend to be someone else to have any freedom. What Leah wants is to be herself, a girl, but be allowed to choose what to do with her life. Her parents allowed her to perform chores more typically done by boys, and she’s got excellent aim with guns, but the moment you put a skirt on her she’s just good for marrying. Yeah, you’ll want to dickpunch some assholes in Walk on Earth a Stranger.

The journey towards California is, in a word, harrowing. Carson has now been shelved as a cruel and untrustworthy author in my mind, because no one is safe. Though I’m really grateful that View Spoiler » Any kid who has played Oregon Trail knows how hard it is to get the whole party across the US in a wagon with everyone alive and intact. Hardness level = impossible. More than that, Carson excels at writing scenes with maximum tension and grit. Everything felt so real.

gif oregon trail river crossing

Plus, since I ended up loving so much of the cast so intensely, I spent most of the book utterly terrified. See, it’s not just Leah. I fell for her first, and I love her most, but it’s not just her. I adore the Hoffmanns, the Robichauds, Jefferson, Jasper and co., Peony, Agatha, and a couple more I’m not going to list because the character arcs are important. Towards the end of Walk on Earth a Stranger, I was SO concerned that I actually had to take breaks from the book to work up the courage and the requisite calm to carry on. And, yes, Carson made me cry. I told you she was cruel.

gif one of the oxen died

The historical aspects are to swoon for, and I say that as someone who has never been interested in this era of history. What I love the most is that Walk on Earth a Stranger is diverse, something historical novels often fail to be. Jefferson is half-Cherokee, there’s a black slave in the company (who gets development beyond being a slave, I promise), and there are LGBT+ characters. Carson not only includes the characters but really looks at how tough things are for them, just like we see how hard being a woman is for Leah. Walk on Earth a Stranger is a historical novel that focuses on the historically marginalized.

Though I had high expectations for Walk on Earth a Stranger, Carson’s new series opener completely soared over them. I loved every single page and my emotions were abundant. I recommend this highly for those who loved Carson’s Fire and Thorns and also for those who didn’t. It’s damn good, guys.

Favorite Quote:

“I don’t wish to allude to his parentage, as that is something over which he has no control.”

I lean forward so that I’m right in his face. “If you don’t wish to allude, then you’d better stop talking.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif bless yore beautiful hide seven brides

 

9 responses to “Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson”

  1. I NEED THIS BOOK NOW! I absolutely adore magical realism. Add a touch of history and a badass lady character, and I am a goner. This book sounds perfect for me, especially since it takes place during the Gold Rush (I’m a proud Golden State girl).
    Dana @ The Unprinted Protagonist recently posted…High school reflections and advice from a seasoned pro (aka a senior)My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      The series might go in a more strongly fantasy direction, but in this book, it’s just that one element, so it feels more historical magical realism. Anyway, it’s awesome and I hope you love it too!

  2. Oh my god I am crazy excited now!!! Your review is fantastic and totally did it’s job: I want to read this book ASAP. You know that I kept going with Fire and Thorns because of your reviews/insistence that they got better so you are officially my guide to anything Rae Carson. This has never been a period of history I’ve been interested in either, despite living in California, so I’m really glad it was still a captivating historical to read! Leah sounds amazing and I love your Olivia Wilde gif. Actually, everything about this sounds perfect. I haven’t read a book in a week, this might be a good one to get me out of my mini slump. Thanks for you excellent review!

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yayyyyyyy! I always advise pushing through Fire and Thorns, even if you didn’t like the first. It doesn’t ALWAYS work out, but it’s worth it for most people, I think. Leah is a total boss, and this is one of those books I love despite not being emotionally invested in the romance, which is the easiest thing to invest me in emotionally.

      Boo to your mini-slump. I hope you pick up something amazing, be it this or another book. 🙂

      • Totally agree. Plus it’s nice to know that most people think it gets better so you’ll either agree or really found out it’s not for you. Romance is my fave but if I get swept away in the story I can forgive very little romance. I hope so too, thanks! I’m starting the new Kate Morton arc on Friday but I might try to fit this in first 🙂

  3. Layla says:

    I still haven’t read this one. Ok, ok. Bumping it up to the top of my TBR list (especially since there are LGBTQ+ characters, where I always want more representation). Great review – so many things about this seem catnippy to me – gender-bending! ladies with attitude! and reading about the Oregon Trail.

    I haven’t read Carson’s Fire and Thorns but will do at some point in my life when I have world enough and time but today is not that day, and tomorrow isn’t looking so good, either.

    Also: remember how hard it was to get wagons across the river? REMEMBER? Do I caulk the wagon or attempt to ford the river? I inevitably chose poorly and always drowned my oxen. Whoops.

    Mad props to you for choosing Howard Keel as a knee-slapping, sister-in-law-kidnapping backwoodsman in that cinematic delight, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, as a gif. Nothing could make me want to read this book more.
    Layla recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday (12): Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught “YA and the Western Canon 101”My Profile

  4. Lyn Kaye says:

    I won a copy of this in a giveaway, and I am seriously dying to read it. Also, thanks to your gif, I am going to totally picture Leah as Olivia Wilde, which is far from the worst thing, ever.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Garden Gazette: August Wrap UpMy Profile

  5. I read the Girl of Fire and Thorns series before I was trying to regularly review things/write things down, so while I know I really liked it, I can’t seem to bring back specific images of why (other than Hector, b/c you know, obvs).

    Reading your review for Walk the Earth a Stranger did two very important things: it made me remember why I enjoyed Rae Carson’s writing so much, and it made me SO EXCITED to read this book. Loved your review, and loved the GIFs. Thanks for upping the hype on this one for us!
    Lindsey @ Bring My Books recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters That I’m Side-EyeingMy Profile

  6. […] one from Booklist as well as making the longlist for the National Book Awards as well as numerous blogger reviews. Basically, this series is going to be epic, possibly more epic than Fire and Thorns […]

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