Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova | #DSFFBookClub

I’ve wanted to read Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova the moment I knew it existed. Reading the book blurb promised brujas, “Deathday” celebrations, summoning the spirits of dead relatives, and a journey into the Wonderland-esque land of Los Lagos. Once I saw the cover, I was sure I had to read this book. It’s easily in my top 5 favorite covers of 2016. As for the story itself – did it live up to the hype and lofty expectations I created for it? Not quite, but it was still a hell of a fun ride.

 

Plot Overview

 

Alejandra Mortiz, or Alex, is a teenage bruja whom we meet right before the special, double celebration of her 16th birthday and her Deathday, which is a bruja’s coming-of-age-ceremony. This ceremony requires the summoning of one’s ancestral spirits, who in Alex’s case are all part of an old and powerful line of brujas and brujos. With the blessing of her ancestors, Alex will be able to control her abilities as well as harness their full potential. This is all in theory because Alex doesn’t actually want that kind of power. She was perfectly happy being a late bloomer or keeping her abilities dormant, so when they start to awaken, her natural reaction is to reject them. On her Deathday, Alex uses a new and untested canto to revoke her powers and send them back to the Deos. Unfortunately for Alex, nothing goes according to plan. Instead of revoking her powers, her entire family is sent away to an alternate realm called Los Lagos where vicious creatures lurk, dangerous obstacles await, and the powerful villain The Devourer reigns supreme. Realizing her mistake, Alex must venture into Los Lagos and with the help of the mysterious brujo, Nova, and her best friend, Rishi, she will strive to right her wrongs. 

 

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What I liked:

 

Latinx power

Some people may not think it noteworthy to mention, but I must make it widely known that Labyrinth Lost features a predominantly Latinx cast. With the exception of Rishi and a few of the minor characters, most of the major characters have Latinx surnames and even the magical creatures have Spanish names and are influenced by Latin American cultures. Latinidad permeates the entire story and it is clear that the author has done so respectfully. I cannot stress enough how validating it was to read my language and see bits and pieces of my home country’s culture reflected in this YA Fantasy. This aspect of the story may not be important at all to other readers, but to me it was special.

 

Positive representation of bisexuality

I absolutely loved that Alex’s bisexuality was never an “issue” or even discussed much at all. Yes, there is a love triangle between Alex, Rishi, and Nova. But I actually didn’t mind it because the romance was not a central part of the story, but rather a fun and added benefit that was concluded realistically, in my opinion. I would like to see more LGBTQ characters, but especially bisexual characters, in Fantasy and Sci-fi depicted with as much respect and without stereotypes as Alex is depicted in Labyrinth Lost. Bisexuality is often erased and stigmatized by cishet and Queer people alike, so YA needs more bisexual heroes who kick ass and save the world. Perhaps they even get to go on a nice date with a boy or a girl at the end of their harrowing adventures. Positive representation of pansexual, demisexual, and genderqueer people is even more rare, but I think bisexual visibility in YA books is an important step in the right direction. 

 

Los Lagos

Without a doubt, my favorite thing about the book was Alex’s visit to Los Lagos. Her adventure in this peculiar land in another dimension makes up the majority of the story and makes the book worth reading. In Los Lagos, Alex and her companions are busy averting danger and trying to survive in one of the most hostile and unwelcoming environments they’ll ever face. During these adventures, they’ll encounter forests that cyclically catch fire,  trickster duendes (leprechauns), terrifying chimeras, and the most dangerous enemy of them all — The Devourer. Los Lagos offers a variety of memorable environments and characters, and our heroes move through the landscape at a quick pace, so there is always a sense of urgency and we are always seeing something new. 

 

Final thoughts

 

Labyrinth Lost was tons of fun to read. It’s not perfect, though. While I enjoyed getting to know Alex, Rishi, and Nova, I didn’t feel they were developed enough by book’s end to become fully-realized people in my eyes. They certainly are compelling characters, but I wish more time had been spent developing their relationships to each other. Especially the relationship between Rishi and Alex.  Sometimes they make silly decisions that had me grabbing my hair in frustration, but would I have been any wiser as a teenager? Probably not. The plot itself sometimes felt like an obstacle course that our heroes had to overcome, often predictably but always in an exciting fashion. Ultimately,  my reading experience was positive and memorable, so Labyrinth Lost earns my recommendation. If you’re looking to get lost in a thrilling YA fantasy with a unique world and fast-paced action, then this book is for you.


Other opinions:

Shay @ Required Reading | Brendon @ Gaming For Justice | CW @ Read, Think ,Ponder

 

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Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)

Purchase on Amazon:  Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas)

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova


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34 thoughts on “Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova | #DSFFBookClub

  1. Glad you enjoyed it – it maybe would’ve been difficult to meet your expectations, but at least you found it a good read 🙂

    And I’m kind of glad that you didn’t rant about Nova 😉

  2. I totally agree with you on the cover. Whoever designed it is a genius. It sounds like this book has a unique set of characters and monsters, but I think the “obstacle course” plot would drive me crazy. I have a hard time with predictability.

  3. Wonderful review! I have read a lot of reviews about this book lately, but your review really has spoken to me. It’s important to address the awesome things, but the lack of perfection. I think that hype is great at ruining good books. Perspective is essential!

  4. Sounds like a great read Naz 🙂 It is always nice to find oneself in a book 🙂 Is Rishi an Indian character?

  5. I was already pumped to read this book, but now I’m really excited after finding out there’s a main character who’s bisexual! Woo hoo!!

      1. Because … biphobia? 🙁 Even when there are characters whose behaviour is bisexual, they’re often not labelled bi (in or outside the text), which makes them harder to spot too. Have you read Corona by Bushra Rehman? It’s an amazing book, and both the author and MC are bi.

      1. That’s a real shame- I’ve been there before- sometimes it’s almost because we want it to be absolutely spectacular it falls short (which I always see as a little bit unfair on the book) That’s why it’s good to read mixed reviews- cos then you go in with a more balanced view- so thanks for writing this! 🙂

  6. Ohhh I haven’t read many books with bisexual characters and I’m so glad that this one has wonderful representation on that spectrum, along with the Latinx representation too! The visit sounds like it was lots of fun. Wonderful review, Naz!

  7. I loved it that Alex’s community of Latinx (mostly) women was so important to her life — so often the protagonists of YA fantasy novels are isolated from their families and communities, or become isolated over the course of the book, and I loved it that Alex’s story arc was about coming to appreciate that community and her place in it. <3

    I agree that the characters weren't as fully developed as they could have been. In particular I didn't have a strong sense of who Nova was as a person, and as a result I kind of didn't buy that Alex was possibly into him? I'm hoping that we get more of all the characters in the subsequent two books, enough to know them better.

    1. Yess, I loved that aspect of the story. I really appreciated how Alex came to accept her identity as a Bruja and belonging to a community of Brujas.
      The only reason I saw for being into Alex was that he was interesting and attractive? Idk, sometimes that happens! But I never got the impression she was that into him. Anyway, we know how that relationship turned out, 🙂

  8. Great review as always and thank you so much for organizing and hosting the #DSFFBookClub. This was definitely a great pick for the group and I am so happy I participated!

    I appreciated your comments on their seemingly unwise decision. I find this a lot in not just YA but sometimes other novels as well. And sometimes it’s an obvious way to move the plot forward and other times I have to put myself in the mind frame of the character. With Alex and Nova both being headstrong and stubborn, I can see realistically why some of the decisions were made. Like Alex’s initial canto that causes the whole thing. From an outsider perspective, I knew nothing good was coming with a super powerful canto used my a young and inexperience bruja. But Alex’s desperation and motivation was so strong, to her it probably seemed like her only option.

    Anyways, I digress… I am looking forward to more Brooklyn Brujas!

    1. Yeah, you’re right that a lot of books have issues with seemingly unrealistic/unwise decisions that are meant to drive plot forward. We can critique and scrutinize their choices all we want, but nitpicking only leads negative reading experiences. So I let some things go. And honestly, if you think about something long enough, you can rationalize anything. You make a great case for why Alex, as an inexperienced bruja, felt compelled to revoke her powers using the canto. You’re such a perceptive reader!

      1. True, it’s all about getting into the character’s shoes. I like what you said, if it was you, would you be any different? I think I would make some similar decisions to the group as a teen too!

  9. This is such a wonderful and balanced review, Naz! I love the sound of the plot and I am glad to hear that it represented your culture so well. It’s always so wonderful to see yourself reflected in fiction, and it does not happen nearly often enough with YA Fantasy. Hope this will pave the way for more like it.
    I am sorry to hear that the characters did not develop fully enough, though. I find this problem with a lot of YA series, it takes me a while to warm up to characters in general – and YA just lacks the page length. But since this is a trilogy, I hope it will improve with subsequent installments.

    1. I’ve been reading a lot of YA this year, and have noticed a trend with my reading of 300-page YA books. Yeah, I have to admit that a lot of the time I don’t warm up to the characters easily, and usually it’s due to the short length. I like short books because a slow reader like me can get through them in a few days. But maybe I should read longer books as well or books that are more character driven. Because one of my favorite things about reading books is getting to know and love new characters!
      Overall, I’m optimistic about the series and would love to see what else later books explore. I hope book 2 is longer.

  10. Yay! I’ve been waiting on your review for this one. There has been so much buzz around this book that I really need to pick it up soon.

    “I cannot stress enough how validating it was to read my language and see bits and pieces of my home country’s culture reflected in this YA Fantasy. This aspect of the story may not be important at all to other readers, but to me it was special.”

    You deserve to feel represented in literature, so this made me so happy for you Naz!

    Great review 🙂

  11. I read a review for this book on another wonderful blog, and it really made me curious about it all. Yours convinced me I should give it a try sometime. It is so, so great that you were able to find yourself a little bit in this story, and I think we all should be able to find ourselves in any book, really, this way <3

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