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.
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.