Title: Walk On Earth A Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Published by: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: September 22, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Western, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
When I started this book, I remembered that I’ve already read a series by Rae Carson. I enjoyed her Fire and Thorns trilogy a few years ago and recommend it for everyone 12 and older. I like that Carson develops realistic relationships between her characters, both in friendship and romance. Her romantic developments might be a little too slow moving for some, but I find the simmering approach charming, delighting in every small, secret smile.
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a fantastical western based in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The story follows a young girl forced to trek across young America on her own, hoping to reunite with her best friend, Jefferson. It’s the Oregon Trail (Oh no, you died of Cholera! You've killed an offensive amount of bison and cannot carry all that meat, leave it behind for scavengers. Ford the river! Talulla suffered a snakebite [lose 3 days]) featuring a magical girl who can sense gold—Leah (Lee).
Title: Vengeance Road
Author: Erin Bowman
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Western
Summary from Goodreads:
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.
When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.
I’m not overly fond of revenge stories, but I’ve been looking forward to this western for months. I anticipated a rough landscape and a determined heroine with similarities to True Grit. I mean, look at that cover! While Kate Thompson sounds a little like a broken-revenge-record at times, her vengeance rides on the back of her grief as she launches into this journey hours after she buries her father. The Colton brothers, when they first meet, take to calling her deaf, because she has a red haze around her, out for nothing but blood. Expect violence and a stonehearted girl, who makes her first kill in the first chapter of the book:
“That sounds real nice, boy,” he says. “Now for the love of God, lower that damn pistol.”
The Colton brothers, Jesse and Will, bring some lightheartedness to the story. They’re taken in by Kate’s disguise as a boy, and decide to follow her as a promise to their father to watch out for the Thompson kid. However, as the mission of revenge against the Rose Riders turns towards the promise of gold, even the Colton boys can’t resist the temptation of quick wealth and comfort. In Vengeance Road, the bad guys are really bad, and the good guys are pulled by revenge and greed.
While Kate’s thirst for revenge doesn’t dampen (but justifiably grows), she begins to process her grief and remember the sweetness of companionship. She doesn’t want to be alone, and finally recognizes the danger of wallowing in hate.
“I want him to burn for eternity. I should carve a damn rose in his forehead first so he knows just how rotten he is.
It’s a book about revenge and it’s a book about healing, about learning to lean on others—not letting hate fester. I really enjoyed Vengeance Road. The grammatically incorrect language might be exhausting for some, but I adjusted quickly and it didn’t distract me from the story.
Would I let my teen read this book?
Vengeance Road has dark themes more appropriate for older teens. There’s some language, talk about “poking whores,” remains of burned children, and a lot of shoot-outs.
Liluye’s Apache character introduces themes about judgment, stereotypes, spirituality, culture differences, and how respect garners respect. These topics along with revenge, forgiveness, greed, God, and community make for some great thought-provoking ideas.
With the knowledge above and below, I’d recommend this book for everyone 16 and up.
Age recommendation: 16
Language – Moderate, including the use of Jesus Christ as an expletive.
Drugs & Alcohol— Characters drink alcohol in the saloon as appropriate to the time
Sex – References to whores working; sex referred to as a “poke,” a common, encouraged activity; a few kissing scenes
Violence – Lots of characters get shot; burned family in a carriage; two characters are hanged; several characters hit with shovels
My Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Buy Vengeance Road on Amazon.com
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.