Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Córdova.
Genre: YA – Urban Fantasy.
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pub. Date: September 6, 2016.
Requested through NetGalley.
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…
Disclaimer: I requested an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. I also volunteered to participate in the Resting Witch Face Squad street team to promote Labyrinth Lost. I received no compensation for this review. My opinions are my own.
Personal Enjoyment: ●●●○○
Writing Style: see below*
I have been highly anticipating the release of Labyrinth Lost. Magical badass bisexual protagonist of color? It’s like someone took my wishlist, hand-wrapped it in a gorgeous cover, and left it under my Christmas tree in September (or June, since I managed to snag this early).
Labyrinth Lost is one hell of a modern portal fantasy– stepping from magical Brooklyn into Los Lagos felt like returning to a dark Narnia or a crooked Wonderland. It was simultaneously a small, contained bubble of a world, but with a sense of endlessness. The world, its residents, its magic system all felt fresh and new and ancient and familiar. The world-building and magic system were absolutely the most enthralling part of this book. It felt like this first book in the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy just barely scratched the surface. I am craving another 200 pages to explore Los Lagos.
But the thing I loved about this book was how real Alex’s family felt, and just how palpable their love for her was. Sometimes, “family” in fiction feels like a single unit (if it’s included in Young Adult fiction at all): father-mother-sister-brother rolled into one ball of familial love. But with Labyrinth Lost I could feel the difference between motherly love and sisterly, the love of an aunt and that of a grandmother. The subtle nuances in relationships between Alex and her family members really set this book apart.
However, I really had a difficult time getting through this book, especially as I’ve been in the middle of a massive reading slump. I might have built up the hype too much, and the book couldn’t possibly have lived up to my expectations. It especially didn’t help that I was reading an ARC and not the finished copy. Sending e-galleys to my kindle really messes up the formatting so the pacing feels wacky and uncomfortable. But I do want to briefly touch on some persistent issues I had with the plot and characters:
I don’t know how to feel about Rishi and Alex’s relationship. I felt like I was dropped into the middle of their budding romance and I missed out on seeing them as best friends. I really liked their chemistry, but I wanted more insight into their relationship that such an action-driven story did not provide.
I also couldn’t wrap my head around the characters’ reactions. Their wasn’t much interpersonal conflict between them– arguments would start to arise and then they would decide it wasn’t worth arguing about. Even internal conflict was resolved far too easily. I wanted the characters to really slow down and recognize the absurdity and danger of their situation, but they just seemed to take everything in stride far too easily.
My main issues with the story ultimately boil down to: I really like books that focus more on internal conflict than external. But I can’t fault this book for being a fun, fascinating adventure story, a story of the love and power of family, and ultimately a good representation of the portal fantasy genre in the spirit of The Chronicles of Narnia or Alice in Wonderland.
Even though this book wasn’t everything I wanted, I definitely recommend it and I am still looking forward to the rest of the books in the trilogy. The world left such a strong impression and the characters made me crave even more badass, magical, queer ladies of color.
* Due to complications with the formatting of the e-galley on my kindle, as well as the knowledge that this is an uncorrected proof of Labyrinth Lost, I don’t feel comfortable providing a rating until I can compare against a finished copy.