Oh... my... wow. Just wow.
When I bought this book, I wasn't expecting anything too special - just your standard, 3-ish star, young-adult fantasy fodder.
Instead, I found this hidden gem that I just loved to pieces. In fact, I don't even want to write this review right now, because all I want to do is go and read the next book in the series. But, alas, that wouldn't do justice to this book, which I so thoroughly enjoyed, so here I go.
In Gaia's Secret, you follow the adventures of Daria Jones, who is thrown from her boring life in Fresno into the magical world of Gaia. Throughout the book, Daria strives to re-unite with her father (who just up and disappeared from Fresno one day), while simultaneously trying to find her place and role in this new world.
To be honest, you won't find anything all too original in Gaia's Secret. Yet, helping to fuel the story and picking up for any creative slack is the writing, which is descriptive in its depiction of Daria's surroundings and the events taking place, but never to the point that the story feels like it's dragging. In fact, the book is pretty much perfectly paced. The writing is engaging but light, so that the book always feels at home in its young-adult genre.
The story is told through Daria's point of view, so she ends up being a well-developed character that you come to love. You can really sympathize with her during the book, and feel her frustrations when her friends and family are constantly leaving her in the dark and hiding truths. First-person POV storytelling isn't my personal favorite to read, generally, but it works well enough here. I did get annoyed being constantly in the dark with Daria, and with some characters for always keeping the truth from her, but on the same note that just made me rally behind Daria all the more.
Just as a heads up, there is a romance angle in this book. Although it's not the main focus of the story, as this is a fantasy book first and foremost, it does play a pretty major role. So, if you dislike that sort of thing, you may want to (sadly!) pass this book up. But, for those of you that like having romance dashed in with your fantasy, you will only adore this book all the more. The romance is lovingly and achingly developed, in the good "slow-burn" kind of way.
Since this book is part of a series, the story obviously leaves off with some major loose ends. Now that I think about it, I don't think the major baddie of the series has even made an appearance yet. I almost wish that the loose ends had been resolved and that this story had been a stand-alone, because I loved it so much and can't imagine the next installment being able to stand up to Gaia's Secret. At the same time, I'm oh-so-happy to have the opportunity to experience more of Gaia, with so much of the world left to explore. In fact, I'm going to do so, right about... now.