Sunday, 18 October 2015

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson - YA book review

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Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Hardback release date: 22nd September 2015

'Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more. She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.' (Publisher's blurb)

This is the second YA Western that I've reviewed recently, and if they're all as good as this one I hope there'll be a lot more.

Leah is a great YA heroine. She's super strong and self-reliant, which is demonstrated when she dresses as a boy to keep safe in a hostile environment for women. I love it that she has romantic feelings and desires, but she isn't defined by them like some YA main characters.

This book also balances using detailed historical research of the time period, without this weighing down the narrative. The sacrifices that people made to seek gold felt very real, as did the daily struggles of their journey.

The writing is also really evocative, conjuring up clear images of the heat and the changing climate as the wagon trail moves westwards towards California.

My favourite part of this book is the supernatural element. Leah's ability to sense gold is described vividly, in terms of how it works and how it makes her feel. Introducing this power in the context of the California Gold Rush is sheer brilliance, and it made this feel quite different from a lot of historical fiction that I've read.

The only downside in my opinion surrounds the overarching plot conflict. Every once in a while Leah's Uncle was mentioned, the ruthless relative who wants her for her abilities. This was the impetus for Leah leaving home, and I felt there could have been more of a building sense of threat linked to him. Could there have been wanted posters everywhere maybe, or heartless outlaws in pursuit of her?

This was a small issue amidst a lot of things that I loved about this book. The characters, setting and historical details were delivered so well that I'm really excited about the next book in the series.*

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman (which I reviewed at the link below)
-Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George (also reviewed at this link)
-A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

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