Series: Brooklyn Brujas, #1
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on September 6th 2016
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary, Own Voices, Diversity, LGBT, Romance
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Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
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 marks 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...
Labyrinth Lost was a book of contradictions: both wonderful yet terrifying, dark yet sweet. I absolutely loved the main character, Alejandra, or Alex, who is extremely flawed yet finds herself in possession of extreme power as the encantrix. Sure, there is the Chosen One trope, with some destiny followed in an adventure. But what makes Labyrinth Lost so unique is the fact that Cordova creates an adventure never done before in Young Adult. The author blends in Latinx culture and magic into the modern day mundanity of Brooklyn, New York. Alex is also bisexual, which is added in swiftly and neatly – no big deal cast on it as it is just another facet to her character. The bigger focus is the journey she embarks on and discoveries she makes about her family and the love that surrounds her in life.
The book starts out with a day where Alex has bad feelings about. Soon enough, her large extended family prepare with her for her Deathday on her 16th birthday: a day where her magic as a bruja manifests with more power and she gets protection from it with the support of all in her family. But a spell she does to counter-act the Deathday canto suddenly makes her family disappear without a trace. With that, the only person she can hesitantly rely on is a mysterious brujo (bruja means “witch” in Spanish) with strange marks on his skin that leads her to Los Lagos, the land between the dead and the living. Once Nova and Alex arrive at Los Lagos, the story turns into a very Wonderland-like turn as they meet both strange and endearing creatures that help them continue their path to the Tree of Souls, where her family is said to be.
‘I’ve never been the bravest of best bruja in my community. I’m just a girl.’
But in this land of Los Lagos is the Devourer, an ex-bruja who stepped down the wrong path and now lure other brujos and brujas to drain them of their magic for her own selfish personal gain. I loved the way Cordova incorporated elements of Latinx culture and folklore into this story. We have the mysterious bird/human creatures called avianas, and the terrifyingly dangerous maloscuros. The Deathday of the brujos and brujas has origins in the Day of the Dead and Santeria. These little tidbits all just added to the world that the author builds – both the modern one with a quirky bruja family and the fantastical one beyond the realm of the living.
The romance is exceedingly light, with the action and plot taking more weight in page time. I think the quick plot and adventure make this story very accessible to younger readers as well. Although Alex starts with some bits and pieces of attraction with the bad-boy type Nova, she finds herself ultimately safe with her Guyanese best friend, Rishi, who becomes an addition to their journey in Los Lagos because of interesting circumstances. Like I said, the romance is light and not the focus of the story; the addition of it is just another sweet side to the otherwise dangerous and ominous path that the characters take to save Alex’s family.
The highlight of this book for me is Alex’s family and the love they all have for her, from her dead godmother Aunt Rosario to her vastly different yet still lovable sisters, Lulu and Rose. I loved reading about Alex’s extended family and how much they all love and support her. There’s a particular scene near the end where family plays a bit role, and that part just made my heart swell. Although Alex is quite selfish in the beginning of the book, she really takes a step back to learn from her mistakes and set things right, making her a very stubborn yet dependable and loyal character. Throughout her journey, she realizes how much she is loved and cherished by her family, and her initial thoughts of rejecting her magic out of fear slowly turn into accepting it out of love.
Wild magic can’t be tamed, I think, and for the first time in forever, I don’t want to hold back. This magic is mine. I can feel it calling to me.
Labyrinth Lost follows Alex’s adventure after a selfish decision she makes on her 16th birthday, her Deathday, as she journeys to Los Lagos and learns lessons along the way. The author integrates aspects of Latinx culture and stories into modern-day New York, creating an immersive and fun-filled world that will take readers on an exciting adventure. While there are familiar tropes and twists, these parts of the plot never slow it down or make it boring. The story remains full of life (even when there is death) and love from beginning to end as Alex accepts the burgeoning powers of the bruja that she is, and the powerful magic that she has in her. I think fantasy readers will have a blast with this one, as well as readers looking for a divergence from their usual supernatural and paranormal reads. Labyrinth Lost takes that genre to an absolute new direction.
Rating : 4 out of 5
Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the review copy!