Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is the first in a young adult historical fantasy following the story of Leah Westfall, a young woman from Georgia with the gift of sensing gold. Circumstances lead her to seek her fortune in California as part of the 1849 gold rush. This first book deals with Leah’s departure from Georgia and the first part of her journey west.
I really enjoyed this book. I was highly invested in Leah’s story and loved the depiction of the trek across the country. Upon finishing it I immediately preordered book two, entitled Like a River Glorious, due out in September 2016. And can I just say, isn’t that a gorgeous cover?
What I liked
The protagonist. I really enjoyed reading from Leah’s perspective. She is a young woman with a good heart, and a strong mind. It’s clear though the toll her secrets are taking on her. I liked that Leah does sometimes does make mistakes and errors in judgement – it keeps her real. The supporting characters are also very engaging and in many cases have significant character development.
The historical detail. I admit that this is a period of American history about which I am not too familiar. Carson was able to evoke a wonderfully vivid atmosphere of what life would have been like travelling West during the Gold Rush. From the author’s notes at the end I have the strong impression that Carson did a significant amount of research when writing this book.
The fantastical. While there is some fantasy in Walk on Earth a Stranger, it is very subtle and well integrated into the story. The focus is very much more on historical fiction than fantasy though.
The tropes. This was a mixed like/didn’t like. Carson used so many tropes in this book it did get a little obvious at times. We had the girl dressing up as a boy trope, the wicked uncle trope, the best friend as potential love interest trope, the refusal of the Call to Adventure until the Inciting Incident trope. However, Carson makes them work very, very well together and has created a wonderfully cohesive story.
What I didn’t like
The love triangle. This is a young adult book, so a love triangle is unavoidable. While I did think that, at least, the third member of the triangle was convincingly written I really didn’t care for this aspect of the book.
There was very little I didn’t enjoy about Walk on Earth a Stranger.
I gave Walk on Earth a Stranger four and a half stars out of five.