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.
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a little formulaic and that annoyed me a little at first (Did it really need three refusals before the journey began?) but the momentum is good from page one through the middle and right up to the end. While there aren’t many momentous plot points there are smaller events happening all the time and it held my interest throughout. I opened this novel and the next thing I knew, I was a third of the way in.
One thing worth singling out about the plot is that Carson employs the cliché of a girl having to dress up as a man to complete her quest. It makes a lot of sense for Lee to disguise herself and there are distinct privileges to being a man in 1849 that she can take advantage of by disguising herself as one. This is a tired trope, but Carson does it well and uses it to address women’s issues of the time in the latter part of the novel. Walk on Earth a Stranger also touches on the issues of slavery and prejudice towards the Native American people.
I loved the prose in this novel. The First Person POV is a common choice in YA but it’s not often that it works as well as it does in Walk on Earth a Stranger. Lee’s voice is embedded in the narrative and I felt like I could hear her as I read this novel.
Lee’s ability to sense gold is never explained, instead it’s kept to the realm of mysterious, unknowable things. That was fine with me.
I love it when circumstances force people with varying beliefs and opinions together, and although Carson does this in a more understated way, the found family that develops through the middle is awesome. I’m still on the fence about the romance between Lee and Jefferson. I would’ve liked a little more chemistry but maybe that’s something Carson develops more in Like a River Glorious.
Walk on Earth a Stranger is an entertaining Historical Fantasy novel in which good pacing and prose distract from a formulaic plot. The girl disguising herself as a boy trope might be off-putting to some readers but it works in this novel. A fun read overall, and I look forward to picking up Like a River Glorious.