Saturday, November 28, 2015

Walk on Earth a stranger by Rae Carson

Leah Westfall has a secret, one that her parents have told her she must keep at all costs - Leah can sense the presence of gold in all it's shapes and sizes, and it has made her family succeed in a place where few families truly thrive.  Her father is known as "Lucky" to the locals because of his knack for finding gold, and people sneak onto their land some times to try their hand at finding some of Lucky's gold, but none of them know about the stash of gold dust kept hidden away until it can sold safely far from town and the prying eyes of their neighbours.  When her parents are murdered, it seems as though her whole world has been ripped away, especially when she discovers that her father shared her secret with someone he thought he could trust - someone who betrayed him in the worst way possible.  

Forced to flee her family home, Leah disguises herself as a boy and decides to travel across America from Georgia to the gold rush in California - a place where a girl who can find gold will surely find her fortune, but first she has to get there.  Travelling disguised as a boy is risky, and her only hope is to catch up with her childhood friend Jefferson, who also has dreams of the gold fields of California.  It will be a dangerous journey across a landscape that seems designed to catch and kill the unwary, pushing everyone to their limits and beyond for the merest chance of a better life.  In her travels Leah will meet heroes, villains, and people just trying to get by, and all the while she lives with the knowledge that all it will take is one slip up and her life will change forever - because a girl has no rights in her world, and if she is caught then she will be returned to her uncle like the property she is.  Coming of age is never easy, but when you are hiding a massive secret (or two) life becomes more than merely challenging - it becomes a fight for life and freedom.

I loved Rae Carson's Girl of fire and thorns series and I was a little surprised to find she had made the incredibly bold leap from fantasy writer to historical writer - and I was also surprised to discover just how much I enjoyed the world of Walk the Earth a stranger.  While you could argue that in many ways this is a fantasy series, because of Leah's magical ability to detect gold, it feels more like a classic saga of a young woman who strikes out on her own to forge her own destiny.  There are some "stock" characters here, but they are handled so well that you stop thinking of them as the "Indians" or the "slave" and see beyond those stereotypes to the people underneath.  There is so much of this world that you can recognise as our past, and while Carson admits that she has taken a few liberties with the facts it feels like a genuine book from start to finish.

Like the characters we find in the world of Girl of fire and thorns, the characters of Walk on Earth a stranger are varied and richly imagined - blowing past stereotypes and stock characters to create people that you can believe in (the good and the bad).  This is not light reading, and there are some moments where even I couldn't believe what was happening - and I studied history and university and did a whole paper on women's studies so the lack of independence they were allowed shouldn't have surprised.  What could have been a modern fairy tale about a girl with a desirable power that destroyed her life was instead a richly imagined world that I can't wait to revisit when the next book in the series is finally released (and hopefully it won't be too long a wait!).

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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