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.
Set in mid-19th century America, Walk on Earth a Stranger can be more aptly called Road Tripping for Gold. Well, most of the novel chronicles the journey Leah Westfall, a Gold Seer (a person who can sense gold) travels from Georgia to California, seeking a new life in the Gold Rush. Not knowing the geography of the States, I was mostly lost with the places mentioned, but it is more about the adventure she has, while also on the run from her parent’s murderer.
Leah is a strong-willed, hard-working girl who, when faced with an unappealing future bound to her uncle as a gold sniffer, seeks out her own path. After her best friend Jefferson, she sets out to brave the wide world of across the continent. To travel freely, she pretends to be a boy and works for her living. When she finds a traveling group for the second half of her journey, she finds a family she never intended. Her trek has been out of fear, so distrust is her resting phase, but as she gets to know the people in her group, she starts to realize that maybe some people you can put your trust in, and that for all the bad in the world, there is some good, too.
Since this is pre-Civil War America, you see racial tones (more aggravated, I mean) through the novel – sometimes when Leah comes across her father’s Black friend, another a slave, and more concerning the half-Cherokee Jefferson. The people she is traveling with harbor some prejudices, be it on religion, or race, more towards the latter. They keep thinking the Native Americans are enemies, and Jefferson has to take much of this silently. For her part, she also learns how in some ways, she doesn’t see fully the lack of freedom Black people might have, even if they are free.
In terms of pace, this novel has a slow first half, and gains momentum in the second, where their journey gets more intense and arduous. The writing is pretty good, and I enjoyed the amount of detail she put into it, even if I couldn’t appreciate it completely. The author has set up an alternate urban fantasy with the gold seer thing, and I hope we get some explanation or expansion of that magical aspect. Overall, this book is a promising start to the trilogy.
Received a free galley from Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.