Title: Under a Painted Sky
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Action/Adventure, Historical, Romance
Review copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: March 17, 2015
Summary: 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 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.
Review: Two girls running to the west in the mid 1800s seemed like an unusual story. Add in that they are pretending to be boys and I knew it was bound to be interesting. The story begins with a bang or rather a smash. The action ebbed at times, but things never got dull. Just when the pace slowed a little, some new calamity would pop up. Strangely, even in the midst of tragedy and difficulty, the book had a positive feel to it. In spite of the death, violence, fear, and tragic circumstances of the characters, there was hope and as the summary indicates, there was “the power of friendship.”
The friendship between Sammy and Andy begins as they rely on each other for survival, but deepens as they share about themselves. I appreciated that the romance aspect of the book didn’t completely overwhelm the friendship narrative. I enjoy romance, but am happy when a book can be more than that.
Under a Painted Sky often has a lighthearted feeling, yet still deals with serious issues like racism, family loyalties, and gender roles. Stacey Lee has delivered a story that entertains yet also provides food for thought.
One more thing — the cover had me immediately. I don’t even think I cared what the book was about at that point. The sky is gorgeous and the silhouettes caught my eye. Eventually, I noticed the dragons, but it took me a lot longer to realize that the other squiggles weren’t just designs. I only understood when I closed the book at the end. Theresa Evangelista did a fabulous job on that cover design.
Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you enjoy historical fiction with plenty of action and a nice dose of humor. While not everything in the book is completely believable, I was totally willing to go along for the ride. Under a Painted Sky is a highly entertaining novel.
— Cover image and summary via author’s website