Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: Set in 1849, this historical fantasy follows Lee, a young girl whose parents are murdered. She can sense gold nearby, so when her uncle shows up to claim her and her property, she disguises herself as a boy and sets out on the trail to the California Gold Rush. The focus here is very much on Lee, but there’s a wider cast of characters in the people she encounters and travels with. This one was exciting, but I personally felt that it was a little short on substance somehow; the action felt almost episodic. But I liked the friendship between Lee and Jefferson, and the way the wagon train functions as a small community. (I was really interested in the way Mrs. Joyner was written as well.)
This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee: This is also historical fantasy, set in 1818 Geneva. It’s a steampunk alternate history of the writing of Frankenstein. I wondered how well this might work for readers who either haven’t read Frankenstein or who don’t know that Mary Shelley was born Mary Godwin (although it’s eventually spelled out for us). But I liked the way Lee translated the concerns of early 19th century Europe into this society anxious about clockwork men (created in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars), about the rise of technology and the concern with what is natural vs. monstrous. The uprising aspect didn’t work quite as well for me, but I did appreciate that it was an attempt to draw on actual historical events. Alisdair is a mostly sympathetic main character, although I liked him best when he was interacting with Clemence. All in all, this is a pretty solid and interesting look at Frankenstein and some of its concerns.
Also, I had a Hamilton moment, because it turns out that Aaron Burr (sir) was close friends with the Godwin-Wollstonecraft household and knew Mary Shelley fairly well when she was young. He even had a portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft copied and sent to his daughter Theodosia! (So now I want that AU fanfic where Theodosia and Philip Hamilton both live and fall in love and hang out with the Shelleys and Lord Byron because tell me THAT wouldn’t have ended in at least one duel and maybe a continental war.)