Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Sunday, September 20, 2015
Title: Walk on Earth a Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Genre: young adult, historical fiction, magical realism
Series: The Gold Seer #1
Pages: 432 
Published: expected September 22, 2105
Source: ARC from publishers for review 
Rating: 3.75/5

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.

So, I quite liked this historicalish series-opener from seasoned fantasy author Rae Carson . It was fun and different and highly, compulsively readable. It features some fun tropes and unexpected diversity and was an action-filled story; it was memorable. Yet I didn't fall in love with Walk on Earth a Stranger.. but then, I didn't love the first book in this author's last trilogy, either. Sometimes a series needs a book to gain footing, and this was a solid foundation for Carson's planned trilogy.

 Walk on Earth has some of my favorite tropes to read -- in YA or not. I love genderbending, girls defying rules and conventions, and I also love themes of revenge or retribution set in untamed lands. I played Oregon Trail as a child and to see that journey recreated (besides Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie) Across with a spirited character like Leah Westfall was both nostalgic and a whole new joy. Leah's growth as a character is notable and authentic. The magical realism angel is stressed lightly but, honestly, it  feels like an afterthought to the more realistic historical fiction story being told. 

 Leah sets out on her journey and the secondary cast is filled out by the companions she meets and journeys with on the long and dangerous road from Georgia to California. The exception to the pattern is with  Jefferson, her best friend from childhood and  eventual love interest. And when I say love interest, know that it is a minimal part of the story and the complex relationship that exists between the two characters. This book isn't a romance and it doesn't really have those kinds of feels or ships, if that's the kind of story you're looking for. That's not to say Walk on Earth a Stranger doesn't have emotion (the boooot) or heart (Leah is one helluva heroine), but it's more driven by darker emotions (fear, anger, revenge, ambition) and focuses on a wider scope. 

I might have really fallen in love with this if the ending had melt more complete instead of a holdover until the next book. I get that it's a series with an overarching villain and theme and struggle to be developed over three books, but it felt unsatisfying and too easy (running into each other that quickly??)  after the hundreds of pages and thousands of miles invested. The lack of resolution was disappointing.  know I will return for the next book in the series with Lee/Leah and Co. (I mean, I did read 2/3 of The Girl of Fire and Thorns series) but I hope it will pack a more emotional punch.

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