It’s the Oregon Trail, or my review of Walk on Earth a Stranger

Walk on Earth A Stranger

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)

By: Rae Carson

Publisher: GreenWillow Books

Publication Date: September 22nd, 2015

Format: Hardcover

synopsis

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

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.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

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review

4 star (griffin)

I must have been one of the only 90’s kids NOT to have played Oregon Trail at least once in my life, but this book feels a little like playing Oregon Trail must have. It’s obviously the first book of some trilogy, like the Fire and Thorns trilogy, but it has a down-to-earth feel helped by the well-researched setting.

 

Despite my absolute love for all things historical, I have a hesitant relationship with stories dealing with the Wild West, and also with stories involving poor hicks from the mountains (being a non-hick from the mountains, I lost my patience with that kind of story sometime after reading Dovey Coe). What saved this book for me was probably the ‘gold magic’ thing–it was just enough to keep the book from descending totally into annoying stereotypes of desperate tales of struggle. But at the same time, it wasn’t mentioned enough to make the book feel fantastical at all.

 

What I enjoyed the most was probably the womens-rights aspect, although it got to feeling a bit heavy-handed after a while. It’s mentioned time and time again how Leah has no rights as a woman, and is basically treated like property by everyone. That is, until she finally gets fed up and decides to pretend to be a guy, where she’s suddenly allowed to do so much more. This was a theme in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, but there Elisa just ruled like the queenly badass she is, and there was no more mention of ‘girls can’t do…’. However, that being said, women’s rights aren’t the only ones being debated here. There are lots of references to the rights of Native Americans and African Americans, and also a few meetings with some gay guys (cue awkwardness where they think Lee is gay because she’s pretending to be a guy and clearly in love with her male best friend).

 

The love story was…OK, I suppose. I really wanted Lee to find her balls and stop mooning over the guy friend who is clearly not interested. if she’s strong enough to escape a killer and race off on the Oregon Trail, then she’s strong enough to get herself someone who sees her in a romantic way, not just a friend way. I think things were somewhat cleared up when the crush of the best friend died a horrible death…but then I’m reminded of a TV scene where one woman is going on about how the only thing worse than playing second fiddle to a mistress is dealing with a husband paying everlasting homage to a dead love, or something like that. So yeah, Lee just needs to find herself a better man.

 

The magic was also OK. It was a real subtle part of the book, which I did appreciate, and it showed up just enough to justify there being magic in the world, but not a whole lot more than that. I’m hoping there will be more explanation in later books about how it works and why Lee is the only one in the world to have this magic. Actually, when they do hit California it will be really interesting to see, but so far the magic only played a minor role.

 

What I did appreciate, especially as a history buff, was how intense the research must have been to make this book work as well as it did. Seriously, Rae Carson must have spent at least a year just looking things up. The magic and the question of minority rights helped things stay just this side of stereotypical. That being said, the research seemed to fill in for the plot. The plot was a very meandering one, and it felt like I imagine the Oregon Trail computer game to have been. It was mostly just a long series of crisis situations, where characters had to make choices like ‘do I got this way or that way to survive?’ and occasionally do the wrong thing. The plot points were just slightly bigger crises. A part of this, though, seems to be that this book is so obviously one part in what is probably a trilogy. This entire book is setting up for another, more badass book, about a girl with magic gold-finding powers in the California Gold Rush. At least, I hope that’s what it’s building up to.

 

There are some things I like and some I don’t about this book, but overall the concept works. I read this book lighting-fast, at a speed which had Emily rolling her eyes and going ‘Oh my God, Ro’. It’s a fantastic book to gobble up on a lazy day, it just might not win any awards for anything except best-researched. Also, Rae Carson signed my copy in gold Sharpie, so that’s cool too.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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