I'm not normally one for witch stories, but these are brujas. I have to admit that I don't see a lot out there that mix magical realism with Latinx characters, so I just had to give this one a shot and I'm so glad that I did. The reviews of several other book bloggers, particularly diverse book bloggers may have helped too.
That blurb doesn't really begin to tell the reader the half of it. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect spoilers in the blurb, but simply saying that she hates magic is a little off, in my opinion. She hates magic in that Elsa from Frozen kind of way. She's not ridding herself of a measly amount of power that isn't all that useful anyway or some part of herself that she doesn't feel like she identifies with. She's ridding herself of the dangerous power that she feels overwhelming her ability to control it and out of fear of what might happen were she to lose control. Sure, there are some other reasons in there and they are perfectly understandable 'I wanna be a normal girl' reasons, but I feel like those would have been manageable if not under the colossal weight of her power.
The setup is done well and I felt like I had a good grasp of the characters and where everyone stood when the plot took off. Then there's Los Lagos and the insanity ensues. I enjoyed the darkness of it. Rather than Wonderland, which is what the back cover uses, I found Los Lagos reminded me of Oz. There is an order to things, no matter how unsettling they are and the inhabitants know what that order is. Moreover, each one is just trying to do the best they can within their circumstances in much the same way as the inhabitants of Oz. they have their own motivations that are not tied to our protagonist which makes them a bit unpredictable to her and to the reader.
The worlds that stories take place in are one of my favorite parts of reading, it's why I tend to lean toward paranormal and science fiction and one of the things that's been a new joy to historical fiction. I loved the world building of this book. It's not just Los Lagos but also the world building to create this community of brujas and integrate them into Brooklyn. It's beautifully done.
I look forward to the next installment!
I can't spell the word labyrinth to save my life. Thank god for spell check.
When I first heard about this book, I was excited for it. The plot sounded a lot of fun and I liked the idea of a book revolving around brujas. It's an angle I haven't seen before in fiction. Then I DIDN'T want to read it because people kept rubbing the diversity angle in my face (not on here, in other places). I have no problem with diverse books, I just don't like being told to read a book BECAUSE it's diverse, if that makes sense. Tell me the book is good because a 15 year old bruja is kicking ass in the underworld, not because she's Latina. But then I saw someone else put it down for the diverse read bingo square, realized it counted, and I got past my stubbornness and checked it out from the library. So. Here we go.
Labyrinth Lost follow Alex, a bruja who does not want to be a bruja. To make things worse for her, she's not just a bruja but the most magical kind of bruja. If you thought things couldn't get any worse for her than that, you'd be wrong. In an attempt to get rid of her powers, Alex accidentally banishes her family to hell. Makes me feel less bad about crashing my dad's car into the side of the house (forgive me, it's late and I'm in a silly mood). To save them, she joins up with a mysterious brujo, Nova, and her best friend, Rishi, and travels to Los Lagos to save her family from the Devourer.
If I were to sum this book up with one sentence, I would say that it is an example of what YA can be when done well. YA can be profoundly deep and soul shattering, like Wintergirls, true. Or it can be cringingly bad with the cheesy love triangles and overload of angst. Labyrinth Lost is neither of these things. It is an adventure I feel teens can connect to. It's core situation - not feeling like you fit in your skin, not wanting to belong to the group you do, etc. - is something a lot of teens identify with. And most of all, it's fun! This is a book I could easily see any teen picking up and being able to enjoy and I love it for that. Sure, it's a little Hallmarky at points and it's not "deep" literature, but it doesn't have to be. Teen deserve books that are just fun AND well written.
The plot of the story is great. In all fairness the first section did move along a little slowly. It was mostly setting up Alex's angst, the world of the story, etc. So yeah, that could have been trimmed down. But once they get to Los Lagos the story is amazing. I read most of the book today, in different bursts, because I needed to know what happened next. The world building was incredible. I loved the imagery of Los Lagos, the way myths and legends played out there. It sounds like an incredibly beautiful world I would LOVE to see translated to film. Seriously, if there was ever a book to adapt into a movie, I think this one is an excellent candidate. Just keep Tim Burton away from it with a ten foot pole.
The characters themselves were interesting. I loved Alex as a protagonist. She felt real to me. In some ways she kind of reminds me of my sister too, though my sister's much louder than she is. There was an interesting flaw with all the supporting characters though. They didn't feel fully developed. Like, I wouldn't call them fully dimensional characters. In many ways, they felt like stereotypes: The Pretty/Popular Older sister, the Single Mom Doing the Best She Can, etc. But there was still just enough to them that they DIDN'T feel stereotypical. It's a very strange sort of characterization I wish I could describe better. It does make me look forward to sequels, 'cause I guess this is a series. I want to know more about these characters, especially Nova. I'm a sucker for the brooding baby.
On the note of Nova, his "secret" motivations didn't feel so secret. I kind of saw them coming the moment he started talking to Alex in Lady's shop. So that's one area I wish Cordova had worked a little harder on. The scene where Alex learns what he's really after would have been much more heartbreaking than it already was.
Rishi was a conflicting character for me. I liked her. I also think Cordova wrote her WAY better than other writers who create characters like her have done in the past. She reminded me of one of my best friends from high school, which kind of makes me cringe, but it also made her relatable to me as a friend character. I also liked her relationship with Alex. It didn't feel forced at all or rubbed in my face, which I'm grateful for. I was worried this book would be like "LOOK AT THE BISEXUALS!" the same way the sites advertising it behave. Again, nothing against the content, just hate that advertising style.
My issue with Rishi was the way she took everything so naturally. She shows up in Los Lagos, meets flying bird people, and is just like, "Cool." I would have liked more fear from her, more confusion. It's supposed to be this brave, grand gesture that she followed Alex into the portal, but if it's no big deal to her then how grand was the gesture to her really? I liked her best when she started to show fear because that showed me how much she really cared for Alex, making me like their relationship all the more.
Despite my "complaints" with the book, it actually improved upon itself as the story went on. Things I had issues with were remedied in later chapters. I liked to see the writing style grow like that and it really gives me hope for the future of this series.
Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed this on and definitely recommend it, regardless of Bingo status.
Final thought: I just realized this is the last book I'll have checked out from the Salt Lake library. Kind of sad.
Saw this at the library and it's on my list so I figured, why not? It seems like a pretty quick read and I'm liking the story a lot so far.
Separate note, I realized today that next weekend will be the last time I read at the laundromat. It's kind of sad. Weirdos and asshole guys aside, it's a really nice place to read. I'll miss it.
Labyrinth Lost is a story about a family descended from a long line of brujas- Alejandra aka Alex, her mom, two sisters- Rose and Lula, their grandmother- Mama Juanita & Aunt Rosaria. They all have embraced their heritage & magical gifts for many years except Alex. Alex is an Encantrix, the most powerful of brujas and she's always feared her power and desperately longs to rid herself of it because she believes it causes nothing but pain & trouble. At her Deathday ceremony which is a coming-of-age for brujas, she attempts to do just that, with disastrous results- her family disappears. She has no choice but to conjure a portal and follow them to another dimension, an in-between world called Los Lagos, in hopes of saving them from the very powerful and evil creature called the Devourer. As she journeys through Los Lagos to the Tree of Souls where her family is being held and learns how to embrace and control her powers, she realizes her magic might just be a gift to cherish after all.
I really enjoyed the first part of the story, learning all about Alex's family of brujas and their traditions and magical powers. After the Deathday ceremony though when Alex & her friend Nova traveled through the portal into Los Lagos is when the story lost a little of its magic for me. The world building and magical elements were kind of cool and had potential but I felt like there were just too many things thrown out at once and I didn't feel like any of them had the chance to get fully fleshed out. So I found myself losing focus and drifting off until I came to the end, then I really enjoyed it.
Overall there are really neat concepts throughout the book but I think they could have been delivered a little bit better. I also think I would have liked the story a lot better if it stayed grounded more within their life in Brooklyn for a majority of the story versus the in-between world they journeyed to.
*I received this ARC from NetGalley & Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
**I read this for 2016 Halloween Book Bingo: ~Diverse Authors can be Spooky Fun~