Book Review

Labyrinth Lost

I was chosen by the Deos. Even gods make mistakes.

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 she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

Labyrinth Lost Book Cover

Jenny O’s Review: 4 out of 5 Stars

Labyrinth Lost was a fun, vibrant novel. The fact that it’s full of brujas, brujos, a rich mythology based in Latino-inspired culture, and vivid imagery, only makes it better. My favorite part of the novel was the gorgeous setting and the cast of amazing characters that Córdova created. She was able to capture complex, affectionate family dynamics in a way that felt accessible and immediately familiar. The intricate, colorful descriptions of each mythical creature we encountered made me itch to break out my art supplies and try to bring them to life myself. The writing style and the pace of the action is geared toward a YA audience that is on the younger side. I had a few issues with the pacing, but that felt typical of a story that is closer to the children’s category. Córdova discusses mature themes (loss of family members, facing your fears, and even death to a certain extent), but in a way that is approachable to readers in that age range. I love that this book centers around a Latino family and cultural base, and it was so refreshing to have a heroine who deviates from the straight, white leading characters that have become standard in so many YA novels. I would definitely recommend it to a younger audience, or anyone looking for a novel that celebrates diversity (magical or otherwise).

Sarah’s Review: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

The second I heard about this book, I knew that I would love it. It has everything I want in a book:

  • Great cover art
  • Awesomely complex characters, which mostly feature strong female characters and a great perspective on sisters and matriarchal families
  • LGBT romance
  • Witchcraft
  • Travel through a portal to a different land/dimension
  • A gorgeously complex and layered mythical/magical world
  • A mission to save the ones you love the most within a limited amount of time in a mythical and magical land full of dangerous unknowns

Any combination of those elements is a pretty much a guarantee that I will enjoy the book. And overall, I enjoyed Labyrinth Lost, but by the end of the book I found myself wishing it had just a little bit more.

The world Zoraida Cordova created is beautiful, detailed, complex, and layered. This is a book that deserves intricate illustrations. The descriptions of the mythical creatures of Los Lagos were stunning on paper; I can only imagine how much more stunning they would have been if there had been illustrations to accompany them. And it is no surprise that the movie rights have already been sold – this is a book that will work beautifully on screen.

Los Lagos

Zoraida Cordova has stated in interviews that this book was in-part inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Greek/Roman mythology, infused with Ecuadorian and Latin American culture. While this combination made for a beautifully stunning world, some scenes feel like they were taken straight out those tales without any new perspective or twist. For example, there is a tea party scene that feels as though it is taken straight out of Alice in Wonderland; the only difference is that instead of the party being hosted by the Mad Hatter, it is hosted by a Fae lord. In addition to this scene reading very closely to the original in Alice in Wonderland, Cordova sticks closely to the traditional rules of interacting with Fae, aka, do not eat or drink their food or else you will be trapped in their land forever. Cordova goes so far as to have one of her main characters verbalize this rule mere moments/pages before they come across the Fae tea party. But the first thing the characters do is eat and drink the food! This irritated me so much – you cannot have your characters acknowledge a magical rule and then break it within the same scene. This happened several times, which left me frustrated with the characters and their obviously stupid choices. But, the characters are teenagers, so they are guaranteed to make several stupid choices.

Overall, the characters are well flushed out, complex, and diverse. Alejandra (Alex) is a bruja (witch) of immense power that she has been suppressing and hiding because she does not want it. Alex’s family is descended from a long line of brujas and her two teenage sisters have unique powers of their own. I loved the way Zoraida Cordova depicted Alex’s relationship with her sisters – it is so spot on! I have two sisters and I saw a lot of us reflected in Alex’s relationship with her sisters. What I also liked about the family dynamic that Zoraida Cordova portrayed in Labyrinth Lost is that our main character, Alex, is the middle sibling; so many sibling stories are told from the eldest or youngest perspective – the middle child is usually the most silent of the three. It was refreshing to hear from the middle child instead.

Alex is a typical teenager. She complains, a lot. Alex does not like her powers, she is frightened by her powers, she is frustrated by her sisters’ interference in her life, she is angry and hurt that her father left the family without explanation and never returned, and she blames her magic for that. Alex wants to confide her fears and worries in her best friend, Rishi, but she feels as though she can’t because Rishi is not a bruja. When Alex finally decides to take action and do something about all of these fears and worries, she does a very typical but still very annoying teenager thing: Alex trusts a totally sketchy and way-too convenient dude named Nova who shows up at exactly the right time with exactly the right answer to her problems. Clearly, Alex has yet to learn the lesson that there are no easy ways out in life. She tries to take the easy way out for almost the entire book, time and time again, which proved to be increasingly annoying as the book went on. But, she is a teenager, so she did exactly what you would expect her to do.

So, let’s cut to the chase and get to the things that I loved:

  • The world-building and the mythology:
    • I would happily read for hours more about how the Brooklyn brujas interact with the modern world and how they hide and co-exist with non-magical people.
      • How do they use their magic?
      • When is it allowed or not allowed?
      • What does a circle do together that is so vital?

        I am very hopeful that these things are explored in greater detail in the upcoming books of this series!
  • Alex’s reliance on her best friend, her sisters, her mother, her aunts, and all of the incredibly strong women in her life. The strength of the women in this story is marvelous and beautiful.
  • The romance
    • I can’t say much about the romance without spoiling the plot, but I can say that the romance is understated, sweet, and adorably satisfying. Avid Romance readers may not find a lot of romantic tension in the story, but the moments that do exist are pretty wonderful.

Things that bothered me: Alex and all of her frustratingly teenager moments.

  • All of Alex’s stupid decisions
    • I still do not understand Alex’s dedication to trusting Nova even after he repeatedly proved himself to be dishonest, deceitful, or incredibly stupid.
      • Alex receives good advice and counsel from someone who helps her and keeps her friend safe, but Nova talks her out of following it. Alex doesn’t question Nova when she should and that frustrated me.
    • Alex mixes stubbornness and being easily persuaded to such a high degree that it undermined her intelligence.
      • There were a whole string of, “Oh, honey,” moments in this book for me, and I could make a necklace out of the total number of times she exercises deplorably bad judgment.
  • Throughout much of the story, Alex’s character is frequently overwhelmed by her powers (which she doesn’t want to accept), she is overwhelmed by her responsibilities to clean up for her own actions (which she does accept), and she is overwhelmed by her steadfast inability to judge character accurately, which for me, grew frustrating to read about the further I got into the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! Zoraida Cordova has created a complex and layered world with a terrific, galloping adventure through a vivid and heart-wrenching underworld in Labyrinth Lost. Should you read it? Yes, absolutely. Will bits and pieces bother you like it bothered me? Probably, but it’s still worth reading.

Title: Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (September 2016)

Genre: Fantasy, Witches & Witchcraft, Wizards & Witches, LGBT, Myths & Legends, Folklore, Young Adult, Fiction

Read… as a buddy read while… listening to Dia de los Muertos on Spotify.

Purchase your copy hereBuy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Zoraida Cordova

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Zoraida Córdova is the author of urban fantasies The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. Zoraida’s most recent release, Labyrinth Lost, won an International Latino Book award, was named a Best Book of 2016 by Paste Magazine and has been optioned by Paramount Studios. Zoraida is also the author of the upcoming Hollow Crown, to be published by Disney Hyperion in 2019.

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