Somethings BRUJ-ing (because they’re Brujas? get it?) Or my review of Labyrinth Lost

Labyrinth Lost

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

By: Zoraida Córdova

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: September 6th, 2016

Format: ARC

synopsis

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

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review

4 star (griffin)

I was reading this in front of the library school one day in early October, and was interrupted by a fellow classmate wanting to know what I was reading. When I showed her, she got really excited and said ‘YOU are starting October right!’ I wasn’t totally thinking of Halloween when I started Labyrinth Lost, but the cover, with its Day of the Dead vibe, does seem to speak to that time of year. Also witches, alternate universes, and so on.

What I really appreciated was that this book wasn’t scary, just creepy in a wonderful way. It pulled the curtain back on the world and made you wonder if there really could be a place created by brujos and brujas, with flying bird-women and fiery rainforests and a Tree of Souls. It was truly in the Day of the Dead tradition, especially with the ancestor-honoring and the morbidly beautiful imagery. I lapped it up, if you can’t tell.

Alex is also an infinitely relatable character, a girl who is deeply scared of her powerful potential, and would do anything just to be normal. However, her wish backfires in a BIG way, and I enjoyed how her travels through Los Lagos were also a journey of acceptance of herself, in a number of ways. I thought at the beginning of the book that she was a difficult character to understand or relate to–she was intensely private, withdrawn and somewhat uptight. However, as I got to know her better (and it was a slow process), I came to better understand and appreciate her character.

Part of that, I think, was that I didn’t quite understand the love triangle until about ¾ of the way through the book. This might be because Alex didn’t realize there was a love triangle until ¾ of the way through the book (travel of acceptance and all that). Nova was obvious from the get-go, bad-boy brujo that he is, almost too obvious. I honestly rolled my eyes a few times at his attempts at flirtation. Rishi I just adored. She’s quirky, loyal, and an exceptional friend. And, as it turns out, also in love with Alex. (I may or may not have squealed). However, it wasn’t even exactly a love triangle. Alex, being the clear-headed person she is, realized that she had a choice between someone who loved her and lifted her up, and someone who loved her but was potentially bad for her. And, as you may suspect, this wasn’t really a choice.

Rant time: What I really, really love about this is how relatable and realistic this feels. I want to go back and reread the book, just to see if Alex’s introverted uptightness might be not just fear of her magic, but not wanting to confront her sexuality. But I also love that Alex’s bisexuality is NOT an excuse to have a love triangle. It’s NOT an excuse for her to be promiscuous (in fact, I personally think she could stand to loosen up a bit). And it’s NOT a way of making the book seem more inclusive and diverse. It’s part of who Alex is, not a gimmick, and her journey towards acceptance is wonderfully low-key. I also love that Alex makes the safe, solid choice, which I don’t think happens enough in YA. I see plenty of instalove, and I see plenty of the sparks-fly kind of romance, which she arguably had with Nova. But those kinds of romance aren’t always good, and I like that Alex realizes that. It’s also (in my mind) a rebellion against books like The Graces, where the homosexual love interest is tragically killed off in order to have a safely heteronormative relationship take center stage.

OK, rant over.

There are several reasons why this book didn’t make the five-star mark–the plot felt a bit choppy, some of the twists and turns worked and some didn’t, and there were aspects of the plot, especially the magic, that I really just didn’t get. But Labyrinth Lost is a solid four stars, and is currently sitting on my bookshelf (a mark of honor). I’m also excited to see where the author takes things in the next book.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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