Title: Walk On Earth a Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Series: Gold Seer Trilogy #1
Length: 432 pages
Published by: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Diversity: Biracial major character (half Cherokee, half white), minor black character, multiple minor gay characters
This book was a lovely surprise. I was expecting to like it - I'd heard mostly good things about it, and I usually like historical fiction. But this book blew me away. I barely put it down. And now I want more people to read it so I have more people to talk about it with.
I think that this book's main strength was its characters. Every single character was fleshed out very well. I did have trouble keeping track of a few of the minor characters, just because of the sheer number of people in the story and the fact that I'm awful of keeping track of names, but that didn't make the plot hard to understand. I loved Lea and Jeff (of course), and I really liked Therese, too. And Mrs. Joyner surprised me.
Speaking of characters, let's talk about how surprisingly great the diversity was. I would have been a bit disappointed if this book had no diverse characters, but it exceeded my expectations. There are two characters of color, and the racism against them is addressed in what I thought was a really great way. It was made clear that this prejudice was important and inescapable, but it wasn't a let's-stop-everything-to-talk-about-it kind of thing. It just went along with daily life, which is probably what would have happened. For the gay characters, even though their sexualities are only brought up in one conversation and not blatantly spelled out, the meaning of 'confirmed bachelor' is pretty clear. And there's a full explanation in the author's note, too.
I was a bit worried that the slight fantasy aspect in this book would make me like it less, but it fit in very well. Lea's ability to sense gold almost felt natural. Throughout the entire book, I never even had to acknowledge no, nothing like that could ever really happen, but that I was reading about it anyway. I did appreciate that it wasn't a main focus, and even though it's what got the plot going, there was also so much that didn't depend on it at all. And wow, was there a lot going on in the plot.
This book always kept me on my toes. There was always so much going on, but I was never confused by what was happening. Cross-country journeys were dangerous, and I was always very aware of that when I was reading. I never knew when something bad was going to happen. (And bad things happened. I honestly don't know why I wasn't expecting more of that.) And even with all of the unexpected things, everything still fit together perfectly.
In case any of you are inspired to go and read this book RIGHT AWAY (which I highly recommend), just keep in mind that the sequel, Like a River Glorious, isn't out until November. (And it has just as beautiful of a cover as this one!) It's definitely become one of my most anticipated books of this year! But I wish it weren't on that list so that I could have it in my hands now. Anticipating is great. Reading is better.
What are some of your favorite Gold Rush/westward expansion books? Have you ever read a book that's historical fiction mixed with fantasy? Are you going to read Walk On Earth a Stranger now? Tell me in the comments!