The Gaia Wars - Kenneth G. Bennett
I won this book and it's companion Battle for Cascadia through Goodreads First Reads giveaway in order to give an honest review.

The main character, Warren and his friends maybe 13 but that doesn't mean this series is just for kids. I thoroughly enjoyed these books and highly recommend this series to everyone from tweens to adults of all ages.


In The Gaia Wars we're introduced into Warren's world. Warren is an exploring, hard working, nature-loving young man living in a cabin with his uncle. He's caring and smart but in typical teenage fashion he doesn't think everything through, including his prank plans. He realizes too late what could happen if it goes wrong and it goes in fact go awry. It could have been worse but it's still not what Warren expected. This prank sets in motion events no one could have predicted.

There's the build up stuff like getting to know our cast a bit better, getting used to their day to day lives and getting a breath taking tour of the Cascade mountain wilderness. There's event dominoes falling to keep us moving for over half the book. Then we're thrown into non-stop action leaving destruction in our wake and questioning the very nature of our being. Then it ends.

That's where Battle for Cascadia begins. I can't say much about the second book without spoilers. It picks up right where The Gaia Wars leaves off. It's full of action and details over a course of a few days. It's a smooth transition without time wasted on doing a summary or dragging feet. We get the answers to most of our questions from the first book though there's so much more to explore. It's everything great from the first book and builds on it with some wonderful additions like character progression. It hold up and there's no need to worry about starting a series that fails in the second book.

I was hooked in by The Gaia Wars quickly. I'm extremely grateful I won both books to continue them straight through. I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment and can't wait to read it.

This is a mash up of genres with fantasy/sci-fi/adventure/action elements with suspense, true friendship, bullies, coming of age and a first crush. The mix isn't sluggish or choppy, it flows naturally encompassing everyone and everything in its path. The suspense in the first book is trying to figure out who is who and who to trust while in the second book it's all about wondering what is going to happen next. Sure, there's things that can be easily guessed at and expected but really while reading I was completely caught up in the story. It doesn't matter to me if others found the plot to be formulaic or unsurprising. The reason why such tracts become popular and standard is because when done well it's a great ride. That's exactly what we have here. The combination of Gaia hypothesis, Native American myths, and the alien contact is certainly different than anything I've read, even if it doesn't turn genres on its head completely. It is just done so very well and I was thoroughly entertained.

Sure, some things seem just so convenient but it didn't push my willingness to suspend belief to a breaking point. In Warren's world it's easy for me to just put it down as fate. The two times Warren acted Un-Warren-like seemed to be due to outside forces, which is why I put it down as fate since it's not explained yet. Honestly, with everything else going on in the story I barely noticed.

I loved the writing and the style. I could easily imagine everything and really become fully immersed in the book. The descriptions of nature alone are awe inspiring. The covers and title fronts are beautiful and it really gets across the feel of the book. It's tightly wound around the characters, the setting, the few days, these events take place going into detail and doesn't wander off course. It's an easy, quick read that just doesn't let you put it down til the last page.


But what about the characters? Todd Jr. is a bully and Warren makes fun of fat people. Todd Jr. was raised to value power and dominance while Warren was raised to value nature and being fit to survive in the wild. Sean is much like Warren though he disagrees with some of Warren's choices. Phil is simply the girl scout Warren crushes on. Ina is the suspicious hard-ass who has a problem with Warren. Peeples is the sweet old man trying to look out for Warren.

This all may or may not true but one thing is for sure, you won't feel the same way about any of them at the end of this book or the second.

If you have problems with the characters at first, I wouldn't despair or become too harsh because they do change. The first book is all about the set up for the action and in the second book during all the action characters do progress. I hate characters becoming static and that's not an issue here at all. I really like the specific changes several characters under went. The characters feels solid like everything else in the book. They are compelling and realistic. The character do have flaws and don't always make the right decisions. For the good guys it's due to intentions gone awry, lack of knowledge and the interference of the forces of evil. The antagonist is just an evil intergalactic tyrant. We get brief insight into his heart of hearts and it's not a pleasant sight.

Sure, it's black and white good vs. evil story. There's no grey area to feel sympathetic for the bad guy here but I think that works. I don't think it's a drawback. It's nice to just dive into an adventure where you know who to fight against with no questions or hesitation.

So I've rambled on about how great The Gaia Wars and Battle for Cascadia are, the big question in reviews is what's the flaw in these books?

Two Words : Cliff hangers.

*dun dunn DUNNN*

To Be Continued!

Wait, WTF?!?

It's like being attacked by Jaws with your friends and right before Jaws bites your best friend's head off and * Poof *

You're stranded on a desert island.

You're safe but worried about your friends and don't know if they lived or died.

Great.


Both the first and the second book stop on massive end of the world cliff hangers. So I recommend getting both books together because it will drive you batty to be left hanging. The first book's cliff hanger is really in the middle of everything, in the middle of a fight;there's still so much hanging with so many possibilities. The good news is that the second book picks right up where it leaves off. It's a smooth transition. The second book's cliff hanging is annoying as well but at least it's not the "running in mid stride when suddenly the ground disappears" cliff hanger. Oh, wait...never mind. You will wonder, fret and it will nag you to not know what happens but at least there's more answers, information and growth. It felt more like a natural break for the second book's ending. This is really the only thing that bugs me about the series, which is admittedly standard fair in a trilogy. It's done really well and the cliff hanger is effective; I just hate not knowing. I was sitting here saying "no no no nonono so not fair!" throwing a tantrum like a child because the third book isn't out yet.

* sigh * There isn't even a date or a title for it yet. =(

Minor Things:
---Todd Jr. being just so fat yet is able to keep up with the boys then out run them. I mean this kid is described as hardly going outside yet he jet skies every morning. He hates being outside yet has a water bottle and day pack ready to go by the door. Being out of shape and inexperienced you'd think he'd be all loud and obvious trailing the boys as well. Yet the only explanation is that Warren is distracted but what about Sean?

---Why was Ina so mean to Warren when they first met? Everyone knew everyone else in this struggle except Warren so why not be nice and cozy up to him? This isn't explained or brought up at all. I guess we are just suppose to assume she acted that way so Peeples wouldn't suspect they were getting close and talking but if she hadn't been so irritable maybe Peeples accusations wouldn't have hurt her so much. It officially doesn't matter anymore and it just might be Ina having an abrasive personality but I was still asking myself this question while reading. What happens between Ina and Peeople at Ridgecrest is left a big gaping mystery hole.

---I think Warren's voice was came off well. I have this minor spot where it felt off though. When I was 13, neither myself nor my friends differentiated between old and middle aged. Older was 18-21 like older sibling for us. Everyone else was just old or ancient. We certainly didn't call a 35 year old young, after all they were more than twice our age and usually our parents. So Warren's use of such terms and descriptions for the middle aged people in the old folks home felt...disingenuous. Of course it might just be Warren is an unusually perceptive kid and due to his interest in science, history and nature has a better grasp of time. It might be a lack of ways to properly describe it. It's really only mentioned briefly on a couple of pages and I doubt I would have remembered this if I didn't use sticky tags. Otherwise, I have no real qualms on how these young teenagers spoke, thought or were portrayed.


Questions:
Why didn't the person/people who made the Fabrinel make it so once the poison is hit by them to eject the piece of their bodies before the poison destroys them? I'd be working to make that possible if I were them. It may not work a lot of the time but I could see that at least being handy occasionally. It would certainly make it harder. Of course, Fabrinels are giant mystery anyways so maybe there's a reason why something like this hasn't been implemented.

Why did it take Uhlgoth centuries to return to Earth to capture Onagatoh? The answer might be as simple as that's how space travel works but if so, I think spelling this out would be helpful. Especially for young kids who aren't into sci-fi already. It just seems weird that the explanation is simply Ina shrugging and mumbling something about Uhlgoth being badly injured. Warren doesn't even buy it.