Tag Archives: young adult

Walk on Earth a Stranger

Title:  Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy 1)
Author:  Rae Carson
Publisher:  Greenwillow
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-0-06-224292-1

Book Summary:
Although gold has been found in the hills of Georgia, most prospectors agree that the land has dried up and in 1849, the rush is bound for California.  Fifteen-year-old Leah Westfall is content in her loving happy home with her father and mother.  Times are tough and her father’s lingering cough and lack of another male in the household necessitate Leah mucking out the stalls, hunting for fresh meat, and helping her mother with the daily chores.  Leah’s father “Lucky” Westfall has a small store of gold that is parceled out sparingly to help support the family.  The secret that the family keeps is Leah’s ability to divine gold; her witchy-sense directs her to the precious mineral found deep in the earth.  Her best friend is half-Irish, half-Cherokee, Jefferson.  With a mean drunk father, Jefferson grasps an opportunity to escape and head West in the quest for gold and asks Leah to go with him.  But, she is reluctant to leave her family and the home that she loves.

Although the family lives poorly, someone else has sensed the bag of gold dust hidden under the cabin and Leah returns home one evening to discover her mother and father murdered and the gold missing.  At the funeral, Leah learns that her Uncle Hiram has inherited the homestead; estranged from her father, her uncle welcomes her into her own home with warmth.  But there is a deeper purpose to Hiram’s attention and Leah soon realizes that he knows about her ability and wants to control it.

Dressing as a boy and sneaking her beloved horse Peony and her father’s gun out of the house, Leah becomes Lee and flees West.  Along the way, she is robbed, works on a flatboat on the Tennessee River, reconnects with Jefferson, and joins a wagon train heading West.  The adventure, the struggles, and danger have only begun as the group travels toward the rich, fertile California life . . . and gold.

Book Commentary:
When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was a young adult book.  The depth of characters, historical details, and intricacies of the plot make this a very engaging and exciting story.  At the front of the book is a map of the United States that shows the journey that Leah takes.  As she faces hardship and loss, her depth of character and her self-reliance grows.  She is a fantastic literary role model for young girls, and there is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction, adventure and reality, magic and mystery that would entice any reluctant reader.

In the author’s note, Rae Carson describes herself as a writer of “adventure, magic, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices.”  Leah is admirable but believable.

There are a number of secondary characters who help the story along but this is essentially Leah’s tale.  Her magical ability to divine gold is referenced but is often not used as the primary purpose of finding gold.  The story ends with a hint that this won’t be the case in the future.

Who might like this book:
In addition to having a strong female protagonist, this story presents a realistic fictional account of the trek across the country for the Gold Fields of California.  It presents history in a dynamic and appealing story.  This would be a great fictional read to accompany a study of the United States in the 1840’s.  I’ve always felt that history truly can come alive through believable stories of the time period.

I think this book is very appropriate for middle grades and up.  As a woman, Leah is very naïve and presents her views of the world around her in an innocent way.  There is a little romance and a bit of violence, but the reader views everything through Leah’s naïve perspective.  Two other books follow in the Gold Seer Trilogy: Like a River Glorious and Into the Bright Unknown. I enjoyed the first book immensely and look forward to continuing with the series.

The Battle of Hackham Heath


Title:  The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years 2)
Author:  John Flanagan
Publisher:  Philomel
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-399-16362-6

Book Summary:
Although Morgarath has been discredited to many and escaped treason by hiding out in the Mountains of Rain and Night, the kingdom of Araluen has not found peace.  King Duncan ascends to the throne after the abdication of his father.  King Oswald never fully recovered from his capture and mistreatment by Morgarath as he attempted to discredit the King and his future lineage to the throne.  Duncan is young, but fair, and his experiences have made him cautious and intelligent.  Unfortunately, not all the Barons are able to comprehend Morgarath’s deceit and some of them have chosen to align themselves with the fugitive.  Also, under Morgarath’s previous control, the Rangers, a group of skilled archers who have perfected the art of unseen movement, were disbanded and discredited.  As the eyes and ears of the kingdom, the Rangers are essential for securing peace and maintaining trust and honor for the new King.

Crowley, the Ranger Commandant, and his fellow Ranger Halt, were instrumental in restoring Duncan’s right to the throne.  Now they work together to reform and rebuild the Ranger Corp as they are ever vigilant about the happenings and mutterings in the Kingdom.  When a rumor starts about Morgarath’s building of an army, Halt braves the treacherous Three Step Pass to spy on the exiled Baron.  Three Step Pass is the only access to the Mountains of Rain and Night and is heavily guarded.  Halt’s climbing ability serves him well as he ascends the steep cliff side.  What he discovers is horrifying.  Morgarath has found a way to enslave and command an ancient group of creatures – the Wargals.  Part bear, part beast, these savage, simple-minded creatures will follow the order to kill to its culmination, or perish trying.  Araluen’s weakened defenses and army have no recourse against these terrifying monsters.

In addition to dealing with the uncertainty of Morgarath’s next move toward impending war and the unease in the kingdom, King Duncan does have one bit of joy in his life.  He has married the beautiful Lady Rosalind and she now carries the heir to the throne.  The stakes in this battle have been raised and the future of the kingdom and its rulers lies with the Rangers and their king as they must fight against an unrelenting foe.

Book Commentary:
Sigh.  This is one of those series that makes me so happy!  John Flanagan fans will not be disappointed.  The same attention to detail, witty humor and banter, and enduring characters are present as in all of his books.  Flanagan truly is a master storyteller; his description and focus on detail create true pictures in the reader’s mind while still finding just the right balance of action and exposition.

In some ways, I feel that this book is written for the fans, as we learn the answers to some questions that have plagued readers throughout the series: questions about Duncan’s wife, the discovery of the Wargals, Halt’s early relationship with Lady Pauline, and Halt’s future apprentices.  The dry and wonderful banter between Halt and Crowley and Halt and Abelard are truly at their finest.  A delightful book throughout that I finished in a single day.

Who might like this book:
I have said this before, but really, there is no better way to explain this:  This is a book for all ages, but you MUST . . . seriously, I won’t talk to you ever again if you don’t . . . read the entire series in order.  It is kind of like the Star Wars saga: read the books in the order that they were written, not in chronological order.

The Ranger’s Apprentice Series in Order:
Book 1:  The Ruins of Gorlan
Book 2:  The Burning Bridge
Book 3:  The Icebound Land
Book 4:  The Battle for Skandia
Book 5:  The Sorcerer of the North
Book 6:  The Siege of Macindaw
Book 7:  Erak’s Ransom
Book 8:  The Kings of Clonmel
Book 9:  Halt’s Peril
Book 10:  The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Book 11:  The Lost Stories
Book 12:  The Royal Ranger

The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
Book 1:  The Tournament at Gorlan
Book 2:  The Battle of Hackham Heath

Additionally, John Flanagan wrote (and is still writing) a spin-off series to the Ranger’s Apprentice that focuses on Skandia.  Those books have some overlap to characters and settings to the original series.

Brotherband Chronicles
Book 1:  The Outcasts
Book 2:  The Invaders
Book 3:  The Hunters
Book 4:  Slaves of Socorro
Book 5:  Scorpion Mountain
Book 6:  Ghostfaces