I'm the author of the ASHFALL three-and-a-half-ology: ASHFALL, ASHEN WINTER, SUNRISE, and DARLA'S STORY.
I was a bit nervous to read this one because I loved Rae Carson's debut, A Girl of Fire and Thorns, so much. I'm always a tiny bit afraid of the latest work by a favorite author, afraid I may be disappointed. But that didn't stop me from begging for an advance reading copy (ARC) from my dealer. Thanks, Mom! (She owns a bookstore and gets ARCs of everything.)
I'm thrilled to write that Carson did not disappoint in the least. The main character, Leah Westfall, is blessed--or cursed--with the ability to sense gold. Her family realizes how dangerous her ability is and carefully guards her secret. And they're right to do so. It only takes one seemingly minor breach of Leah's confidence to turn her life upside down and send her on a hair-raising trek across the country toward the nascent California gold rush.
Like The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Walk on Earth a Stranger has a strong feminist bent, despite its mid-nineteenth century setting. Carson also chooses to portray a group of gay characters "the college men" in a positive and at times heroic way. Despite the fact that it's now early in the twenty-first century, portraying gay men positively (or at all) in fiction still opens an author up to a lot of criticism, and I appreciate Carson's bravery in doing so.
Leah is a fabulous character, tough, gritty, and yet full of understanding and empathy for her fellow travelers. She longs for the freedom to define herself in an age when the roles of women were chosen by men, yet retains enough of a feminine side to make her complex and interesting. I was captivated by her story--so much so that I read it in less than a day, neglecting the work I was supposed to be doing on ASHFALL #4 this morning.
If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly stories of the American West, do yourself a favor and pick this up when it releases on September 22, 2015. It's part of a trilogy, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the future volumes.