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.
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.
What I liked:
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.
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.
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.
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Purchase on Amazon: Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas)
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