Gaia's Secret (A Pandoran Novel #1)
Following the trail of notes he's left behind, Daria gathers three things: a dark force is hunting her, her father's fled to another world on a cryptic mission, and the only one left to trust is her ex-best friend, Alexander Anderson. The more she learns about her father's absence, the more she realizes she must go to this other world to find him. And Alexander is the only one who knows how to get there.
Amidst a world of diabolical creatures, ancient magic, and bizarrely intuitive vegetation, Daria must find her father before the dark force finds her. But the truth of who she really is could be her greatest enemy of all.
The concept behind Gaia’s Secret really drew me in. Alternate worlds are so fascinating to me because of their endless possibilities. Earth and Gaia were once one and the same, until Gaia split from Earth in a sort of parallel dimension to keep magic alive. People of great power protect the access points or portals from normal human discovery. But magic in Gaia has begun to die.
Within the first chapter, I knew I was going to love Daria. Her dad heavily shelters her, but she has a loyalty to him and his rules that burns with love. She doesn’t outright rebel, which is usually the way to go with YA literature. Don’t get me wrong, Daria is just as strong-headed as the fiercest heroine out there. Daria just has this “good” quality to her that you don’t find much lately. She’s just a good person. She also has the patience of a saint.
There were many times while reading Gaia’s Secret that I felt any normal person would throw their hands in the air and scream at those around them in frustration. Daria is tossed into an epic journey through a world she knew nothing of, a lineage she knew nothing of, with a small group of whom she only thought she knew. When things get…well, off or downright scary, a sane person would have called a full stop on the nonsense and demand answers. Daria doesn’t really. She knows her “friends” are holding loads back. She’s not blindly following, but she seems to listen to a little voice inside her that knows she’s safer with her friends than on her own.
Until she stops listening to that voice and fails in the most epic way possible. Like, things-could-not-have-gone-more-afoul kind of fail. It’s beautiful.
Then we have Alex (Le Grrrr… ), Daria’s supposed best friend from childhood who pulled a serious 180 on her. One minute they’re the best of buds. The next, he’s all glacier and pushing her away. From the moment he enters the story with his new “man-voice,” I knew there was WAY more to this guy than good looks and broody stare. Though he does have the broody thing on lock. Kloss unfolds Alex’s story in the most painfully yet wonderfully slow way you may want to throw something at her. He’s a rule follower, he’s trained, skilled in fight, and will do anything (a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g) to keep Daria safe.
The banter between Alex and Daria is classic stuff. Daria is witty and just bold enough to keep Alex on his toes. But Alex has been down the Daria road before, so he’s not going to give in lightly. It’s this banter that really pulled me into the story. The tension builds and builds between Daria and Alex until you know there is a Mt. Vesuvius blowout waiting around the corner. Will it be on the next page? Maybe. I must flip to find out!
The pace is super quick and I devoured pages in true binge fashion. Kloss’ writing style is pleasant to read, not too serious, but not super sappy. I love the sense of adventure she set up in the book. There are some great stakes involved and the characters make some realistic choices on how to reach their goals. Nothing comes too easy nor are they so far-fetched they are unreachable.
The only thing that had me yearning for something a bit more was Daria’s ease of acceptance over her newfound abilities. They just pop up and she never really questions it. This didn’t feel true to her character since she questions just about everything else. Also, when Alex and Daria finally have a moment together, it felt…convenient or easy. It was a bit of a let down for me after all the buildup.
Minor shortcomings aside, Gaia’s Secret is a super solid guilty pleasure read. Daria’s adventure into who she really is and what her existence means for the betterment of her world bodes well for an amazing series. The characters are wonderfully thought out, and the rich landscape of Gaia is breathtaking to the mind’s eye. Readers who enjoy the lighter side of fantasy, adventure, stories with a strong family core, and down-to-earth characters you’d want for real life friends will adore the world of Gaia’s Secret.