Book Reviews: The Legacy of Gaea, Volume I by S.L. Gassick

Warning: The book reviewed in this post, The Legacy of Gaea, Volume I: The Underworld by S.L. Gassick, contains depictions of gore and fantasy violence, including child endangerment. If you wish to avoid such depictions, proceed with caution.

As promised, here’s the review for the second book I’m bringing you today. I’m switching gears quite drastically with this one, swinging all the way back to the fantasy genre. In fact, I’m going to swing the pendulum way back and talk about some good old epic fantasy. For this post, I’m reviewing The Legacy of Gaea, Volume I: The Underworld by S.L. Gassick.

Rose is the new kid in school, but this isn’t just any school—and Rose isn’t just any girl. The Valhallas are the best schools in the world, and the Valhalla at Norheath is the best of the best; only the Chosen get to study and work there. Rose is one of those select few, and she’s about to start the adventure of learning to master her Gaea-given kyu, which gives her healing powers. Everything appears to be going well on her first day of school, even as some students judge her for her ancestry. Then the unthinkable happens: an artefact is stolen from the Valhalla in broad daylight. While the Head Teacher may try to conceal how dire the situation is, it’s worse than Rose or any of the other students could have imagined.

Image retrieved from Amazon

The stolen artefact, called the Kalad, can bring back the recently-dead as the enslaved army of those who control the artefact.

As the Valhalla leaders try and organize a band of their Knights to retrieve the Kalad, Rose’s new friends—Hemero, Phin, and Nayakax—plans to save it themselves, should the Knights fail. Unfortunately for the innocent, beautiful, and naïve fourteen-year-old, they’re going to bring Rose as their Healer. Is this band of misfits ready for what lies ahead of them? Who can they trust? Most importantly—although they don’t know it—exactly who and what is the orphaned Half-Titan Hemero?

I think the Amazon description for the book puts things best when it says that The Legacy of Gaea is “classic epic fantasy meets exciting anime style action”. Oddly, I don’t watch anime. (I know, I know, time to kick me out of the Nerd’s Club!) However, I did connect much of the imagery in this book to the commercials I have seen on Adult Swim for Attack on Titan, so I think the Amazon blurb fits. Whether this style improves or detracts from the quality of the novel is up to your personal tastes. Personally, I find Gassick’s style to be quite stimulating and exciting, the sort of thrill I expect to experience with epic fantasy. So, even if you aren’t an anime fan, you should be able to appreciate Gassick’s writing.

The plot, for the most part, meets the expectations of the genre and more. Betrayal, deception, fighting, heroes-in-disguise and villains-in-disguise, you won’t know who you can trust as a reader, let alone know who Rose, Hemero, and the other main characters should trust with their lives. While the plot points are mostly common tropes for epic fantasy, the amalgamation which Gassick makes from them is anything but ordinary.

Of course, many of Gassick’s characters are common tropes as well, perhaps even falling under stereotypical. We have Hemero, the outcast loved by few and avoided by many but who has a great destiny ahead of him; Phin, the more cowardly friend who seems to just be dragged along with his friends; Nayakax, the anti-hero who everyone thinks is amazing, except for Hemero, who judges him without getting to know him; Rose, the beautiful nice girl with the healing touch and kind heart who doesn’t realize how fierce she could be based on her ancestry. Mind you, I think that Gassick writes each character in a way that they aren’t overly-stereotypical. In fact, I loved Hemero and I have a love/hate attachment to Nayakax. However, some aspects about each character can get to be too much to bear at points. (I’m specifically thinking of Rose’s infatuation with Nayakax and him pretending he doesn’t care.)

Gassick stuck with one character-based trope which I’m glad to see in fantasy: outcasts-turned-heroes. Each of the adolescents going out to retrieve the Kalad is an outcast in some way. Rose is the new girl, and people are already judging her based on the women from her homeland; Phin’s family is poorer than poor, untouchable even though his brother is a Knight of Valhalla; Nayakax’s family are former members of the Dark Clans, and he’s a puzzle and a loner himself; and Hemero is both orphaned and a Half-Titan whose eyes show that he is definitely not your average human or Titan. I’ve grown to love this trope over the years—I often use it in my own fantasy stories—and the moment that Gassick introduced it to his work, I was hooked.

It’s no surprise that my favorite character is the biggest outcast of them all (at least in the fields): Mad Moros. Clearly not crazy at all, just unique and scarred, I can see why Hemero takes such a liking to him. To me, he is the biggest mystery in this entire book. The more that Gassick reveals about this character, the more questions I have. I really can’t wait to see where Moros takes Hemero and his friends in future installments.

Don’t expect a hero’s welcome for the outcasts, though. The way they are received, especially Hemero, is not totally unexpected given the world that Gassick has built, but it’s also not what you typically encounter in the outcast trope. It certainly promises an interesting future for this series. Unfortunately, that is all I can without giving away any spoilers!

Here’s the biggest thing that bugged me about this book: GAEA IS A MAN. Since when is Gaea a man? She’s Mother Earth in Greek mythology! I am all about creative license but I was actually looking forward to a series that involved a goddess like Gaea as a major player. Needless to say, I was disappointed when Gassick first referred to Gaea as “he”. I suppose I can’t fault him too badly for this considering the rest of the book, but I still wish he had kept Gaea a woman.

I spotted a few proofreading errors but nothing major. I mostly saw missing punctuation. The mistakes aren’t enough to detract from the reading experience, and I probably only notice them because I’m so hyper-focused on editing.

Overall, The Legacy of Gaea, Volume I: The Underworld by S.L. Gassick is a great read for epic fantasy fans. It’s long—over 400 pages—but worth the read and incredibly compelling. For the most part, Gassick’s writing is crisp, engaging, and descriptive; most of the descriptions are well-chosen and well-timed, and the world is thoroughly developed. I love the imaginative energy Gassick has put into the world, the plot, and his characters. I’m looking forward to what Gassick has in store for the next book.

You can buy The Legacy of Gaea by S.L. Gassick as an eBook or in print on Amazon. To stay updated on the series and its author, be sure to check out the Twitter handle @legacyofgaea.

Do you know of a book I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Little Maryam by Hamid Baig

Warning: The novel reviewed in this post, Little Maryam by Hamid Baig, contains depictions of violence and sub-par prison conditions. If you wish to avoid such depictions, proceed with caution.

Like yesterday, I have two new books to bring you. Unlike yesterday, today’s books are not short, but both are compelling enough that you won’t want to put them down until you’ve finished the entire book. The first book I’m reviewing today is a romance novel called Little Maryam by Hamid Baig.

We all have parts of our pasts that we regret, a fight that shouldn’t have been picked or an opportunity missed. Some of us have more of these near-misses than others; even the rich and famous have them. In fact, the rich and famous might experience even more of these than the average family man/woman, which is why they keep themselves constantly busy, whether they like the attention it gets them or not. Such is the case with the protagonist of Little Maryam, Dr. Saadiq Haider.

Saadiq Haider was a normal boy growing up in India. Incredibly smart—a downright genius, even—but a normal boy you probably wouldn’t know from Adam. The son of a well-loved gardener, Saadiq spent most of his days helping his father with chores—and then he met Maryam, the young, enchanting daughter of the Colonel for whom Saadiq and his father worked. Even though they were still but children, it was almost love at first sight. As a young adult, Saadiq was accused of killing his best friend, and his life took an entirely different path, one which led him away from his Little Maryam.

Fast-forward more than twenty years, when fate has finally decided to send Saadiq back to India. What he doesn’t expect is the nosy little American journalist, Anne Miller, who does not stop pestering him until he tells her why he’s going back to India. And, like all roads lead to Rome, everything in Saadiq’s life truly does lead back to Little Maryam.

Image retrieved from Amazon

Why is Saaqid returning to India, and what does his return have to do with Maryam? What really happened when Saaqid’s best friend died? Most importantly, what will happen between Saaqid and Maryam now that Anne Miller has become attached to their star-crossed romance?

I have to warn you right now, this story is not one of those “goody-goody, happily-ever-after” sorts of romances. It’s a little more like a Nicholas Sparks novel, although it’s not even quite that. It feels more real in its depiction of Saadiq and Maryam’s romance, even though it does include typical romance tropes such as a socially-taboo relationship, unwavering love spanning decades, and even a tragedy (I can’t say anything more due to spoilers).

Perhaps my favorite element of this novel is the fact that I never knew quite what to expect until Hamid wanted the reader to know. I’ve said time and time again that I notice patterns so readily that very few twists in books and film take me by surprise, even as I enjoy the ride. With Hamid’s work, however, I found myself not figuring twists out until a few pages—never more than ten, I think—before Hamid revealed them himself. I love that this book is thrilling from a world-wind romance and a realistic amount of mystery and surprises.

A close second has to be the back-and-forth between Saadiq and Anne. I appreciate the romance and connection between Saadiq and Maryam, and it’s certainly the central plot point of the story. Regardless, the relationship that develops between Saadiq and Anne in the frame narrative—which later becomes entwined with the main narrative—reveals a lot about what Saadiq became while also introducing a rather minor, although necessary, character (Anne). They are two very different people but their humor and human compassion bring them closer. The investment Anne gets in Saadiq’s relationship with Maryam may seem random to the average reader, but for any writer, journalists included, it will make perfect sense; Anne is a writer, after all.

For the first part of the book, I wasn’t quite sure if Anne’s part in the story was necessary. I loved reading their interactions and I thought that Anne was an effective first-person narrator, but at times I wondered why Hamid didn’t just use Saadiq as his narrator. Then the second part of the novel began and it all tied together. The ending I found to be especially clever, given Anne’s occupation as a writer (journalist in particular). If nothing else can be said for Hamid’s writing, he knows how to weave an intricate, multi-layered plot without a single loose end.

As a romance novel, you have to expect the read to be emotional. It was. However, unlike the stereotypical romance novel, these emotions are not restricted to the main romantic relationship. I could feel the love between Saadiq and his father, as well as Maryam and her father; I cringed at the rivalry between Saadiq and Ritesh, initially hating him as much as Saadiq did. Of course, it wouldn’t the novel wouldn’t have felt realistic if I hadn’t hated Saadiq at times, too. His violent tendencies inspired fear, anger, and annoyance in me; sometimes I wanted to just hold Saadiq back and say, “You moron, that’s not how you impress a girl!” or “This is going to bite you in the butt later, you twit!” I have to credit Hamid’s beautiful writing for these emotions.

The book isn’t perfect. As with many indie books and books from small presses, I noticed some minor grammatical issues: missing words, misplaced or missing punctuation, etc. Some of the confusion may be due to a regional difference between the English Hamid uses and the English I use. Still, not all of them can be brushed off as that. Fortunately, these proofreading errors weren’t so glaring that they detracted from my reading experience.

At times I found it hard to believe Anne’s reactions to Saadiq’s story as well. For the most part, I agreed with her reaction. After all, how often is it that a Nobel Prize winner spills his guts to you when he normally doesn’t talk about his past? Other times, Anne’s own disbelief of her own reactions made up for the slight lack of believability. Nevertheless, there were parts when I thought, “Geez, you get invested quickly” or “Man, back off, give the guy some space!” These moments did not make Anne entirely unbelievable, but I rolled my eyes at them at the same time.

Overall, I think that Little Maryam by Hamid Baig is a wonderful book. I am especially surprised by the quality due to the fact that it’s a romance novel. (Yes, yes, I know, I can be elitist and hypocritical at times.) My only true qualm is that a little more proofreading needs to be done. Other than that, I recommend this book for romance lovers. Even those who don’t like romances will find value in the other aspects of the plot and the relationships among Saadiq and the minor characters, not to mention Anne’s role in the entire charade. It may be called “Little Maryam,” but she is far from the only draw for this book!

You can buy Little Maryam by Hamid Baig as an eBook or in print on Amazon. To learn more about the author and his work, check out his website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011