“[My family’s] a mess,” he said.
“Then why are you so desperate to return to them?”
“Because they’re mine,” Gabriel said, surprised at how forcefully the words left his mouth.
When I started reading The Book of Secrets by M.L. Little, I realized something interesting about myself: I mostly read books with female protagonists. I love fantasy stories, fairytale retellings, dystopian series, and a wide variety of other genres on occasion; but when I think about the books that I read most often, the voice tends to be female. It was refreshing to dive into a story from a perspective so different from the one I usually read!
Gabriel, our 13-year-old main character, isn’t looking to be a hero. He isn’t looking for adventure or an escape from his life. In fact, he’s just happy to survive his apprenticeship at the local bookshop and help care for his younger brothers. But a strange stone and a magic book are about to turn his life upside down; and the majority of our story is Gabriel desperately trying to rid himself of both of them.
Little does an excellent job creating a world with a vastly different history and culture than ours. She creates creatures that both help and harm our hero throughout the unraveling of the story, and she does so with an abundance of humor that helps to balance the somewhat dark events that take place.
While Gabriel’s character voice is both vibrant and unique, it’s interesting to watch how it morphs throughout the story. As with any typical sibling relationship, his interactions with his older sister and younger brothers is primarily antagonistic…until their circumstances begin to reveal to him just how lost he’d be without them.
I’m also supremely fascinated by Ren, Gabriel’s older sister. She seems wrapped in all kinds of mysteries that affect her actions throughout the book, and both Gabriel and reader only get little snippets of what has made her that way. I’m incredibly intrigued to see how that plays out in the next book!
The only negative I have is that the story was a little slow at the beginning, taking time to draw in the reader until the action started to pick up and we understood enough of the world to begin focusing on the plot alone. But once the story got rolling, I definitely could not put it down! Very much looking forward to the next installment in this series.
I would give it a four out of five stars; definitely perfect for anyone looking for a fantasy story that draws you into a new reality and reminds us of the things that are most worth fighting for: our families.