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.
This was an absolutely top-notch adventure story.
The prose was such that I could feel the searing heat of the desert, the chapped lips, parched throats, wind-toughened skin – the sheer grit of the journey of the journey was tangible. The author is certainly adept at transporting her readers into the world of exhausting treks across the USA.
I really admired our MC, Lee, and her struggles between the way she is treated as a women, and the contrast to when she is disguised as a man. She points out the complete and utter hypocrisy, and her frustration, as well as those of other women, subject to the whims of men, is palpable.
Indeed, this book was unabashedly feminist, which was a big part of why I loved it. Lee doesn’t give up her femininity entirely, she ends up compartmentalising it for her own sanity, but is perfectly content to shoot things while wearing a skirt and riding a horse.
One aspect of the novel that really stood out for me was the commentary on how pregnancy is an utter gamble for a woman of that time – with maternal death rates so high, you were literally risking your life every time you slept with a man. The stark reality of that was horrifying, and really brought home here.
A few weeks back, I wrote a post about the practicalities overlooked in YA dystopias and fantasies – and now I must eat my words, because the author totally addressed some of them here – the inconveniences of having to deal with periods while on some epic trek with barely any privacy, drinking and using cooking water from the same source all the rubbish goes into, the sicknesses that come with close contact and poor hygiene, etc.
Finally, I really liked the very slow development of the romance – it’s simmering under the surface, but there – but our characters have way too much to deal with to fall into some relationship right away. They work together well, and respect each other, and try to communicate even if they’re not so great at it – that’s totally a solid base for a healthy relationship in my book!
It was also great to see the development of some of the side characters – while we didn’t get as much background on some of them as I would have liked, it was lovely to see the family that Lee makes for herself, as well as the redemption of some less-wonderful specimens of humanity.
ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.