|Title: Under a Painted Sky
Author: Stacey Lee
Published: March 17, 2015
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Synopsis: Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.
Slowburn is the watchword for this book. Everything about Under a Painted Sky was slower but that's how it works it's way into your heart. Before you even realized what is happening, you're emotionally invested in the story and the characters. When it comes right down to it, this book is a fantastic piece of historical fiction with diverse characters you can't help but love and an engaging plot that will keep you reading from beginning to end.
The fact that I couldn't put the book down is all the more interesting because of the pacing. Like I said, slowburn is watchword. It wasn't a fast-paced story. Things slowly plotted along until the climax. But when it did hit that climax, it really kicked into high gear. There were a few moments where I just couldn't stop reading, I had to keep going to find out what happened to our intrepid characters. But one thing that I didn't love about the pacing or well maybe plot of this book is the way that it ended. It didn't necessarily end on a cliffhanger but it really left things wide open. As far as I know this is a standalone but it didn't wrap everything up the way I prefer (in a neat and tidy package). I would really love a sequel because honestly I need to find out what happens to these characters.
But the best part of these characters is how they interact and work together. That was the real focus of this story, there is a heartwarming friendship and commradere here. A shared event brings Sammy and Andy together but throughout the book they find solace and friendship in one another. Their relationship is incredibly sweet and supportive. Female friendships like this are not always common in literature and it is such a great thing when it happens. But then there was the friendship with the cowboys. The three of them together were fantastic but then with the girls the dynamic was even better. They took them under their wings and taught them all these amazing things like roping, shooting, and horseback riding. Things that seemed like they were just fun, but were ultimately about survival. It was an odd sort of mentorship but it was a delightful one. And just as delightful was the romance. I'm not always a fan of romance when gender-bending is part of the story. It can sometimes come off as odd but here it really worked. I absolutely shipped the ships and like a lot of my favorite romances it was a fantastic slowburn with a great endgame.
Everything combined for a really phenomenal read. Stacey's writing was engaging and beautiful. I didn't think that I was going to read this as fast as I did but I couldn't put it down and found myself staying up much later than I expected. When the book was done I was left wishing there was more.
I give Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee 9.5 out of 10
Have you read Under a Painted Sky? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!