Author: Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer, #1
It’s 1849 and the California Gold Rush has just begun. Families and individuals everywhere are packing up and heading west in hopes of finding fortune. For Leah “Lee” Westfall, leaving her family homestead in Georgia is unthinkable. But when a tragedy leaves her orphaned and in the hands of the potential perpetrator, she has no choice but to flee. Disguised as a boy, Lee embarks on a dangerous journey across the nation, holding close another secret, her ability to sense gold. Not knowing who to trust, every step Lee takes has the potential to overthrow her plans, returning her to a life that promises nothing but misery.
“The world is smothered in soft white. Fresh flakes continue to drift down, and I twist in the saddle to make sure they’re filling Peony’s tracks. No bird calls, no rodents rustle in the barren underbrush, no wind whistles through the bar branches. The winter-still world holds its breath, waiting for me to give myself away with a sound.”
Rae Carson’s Walk on Earth a Stranger chronicles the journey to California many took during 1849, one filled with hardship, but a steady hope that something greater lies at the end. Carson’s storytelling is wonderfully detailed, the setting so well-written, as a reader you feel every step these characters take. The pacing of this novel can at times seem slow, but I’m not sure if that’s a fair criticism considering how historically accurate she writes Lee’s journey. Traveling largely by wagon, it takes roughly half a year for Lee and company to complete the long trek. Along the way they run into various obstacles and have to make heartbreaking sacrifices in order to survive. Carson also touches on gender role issues and racism. Though men are seen as the head of the family, it is the women in the company who endure and prove their worth beyond measure. Jefferson, Lee’s best friend since childhood, has endured ridicule his whole life, being half Cherokee and Irish. We see how this heritage has affected his point of view amongst a people who see the Native Americans as nothing more than savages.
A journey like this tries a person, revealing their true character and in this novel, Lee proves herself to be incredibly hard-working and far stronger than she realizes. Even though her entire world has been turned upside down, she still manages to press on. While her secret keeps her from forming close relationships, she eventual learns that taking the risk of opening up yields a more rewarding outcome. I was a little disappointed to see Lee’s “gold sense” used so sparingly in this novel, but her new location will provide plenty of opportunity to use this gift in the coming books. Lee is not the only one to grow on her journey. I was so glad to see certain characters who start off as callous and unsympathetic bloom into someone you can root for and I’m hoping these characters remain in Lee’s life.
This first installment in the Gold Seer trilogy is more likely to appeal to fan of historical fiction rather than fantasy, but regardless, I think anyone can appreciate Rae Carson as an incredibly gifted storyteller.