Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
2016 is shaping up to be introducing the kind of LBPQ YA we’ve been waiting for. Between Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit‘s YA lesbian romance with an unapologetically religious main character, Of Fire and Stars‘s fantasy story focusing on two princesses falling in love, and Labyrinth Lost‘s Latina system of magic with a bisexual main character, the genre seems to be progressing leaps and bounds. We’re finally getting the kind of complex, intersectional, multilayered stories that readers have been endlessly requesting.
Labyrinth Lost is about Alex, a Brooklyn bruja (witch) who resents her own powers. She believes that magic has done nothing but harm her and her family, and she longs to be free of it. The magical system is inspired by multiple Latin American and Afro-Cuban cultures and beliefs. Although the book begins in our world, the majority is set in Los Lagos, an in-between world of gods and powerful, unearthly creatures.
It was refreshing reading a fantasy book that didn’t root itself in European tradition. Alex herself is an interesting protagonist, as well. Her magic has to do with her (dead) ancestors, and using it has consequences. Because of her history with her almost uncontrollable power, she has associated it only with destruction. She just wants to live her everyday life, and it frustrated with her sisters’ and mother’s attempts to include her in their belief system and magical practices. She struggles to accept her power, and for a queer POC protagonist, this has particular resonance.
Although the word “bisexual” isn’t used in the text, Alex finds herself pulled between two people: the brooding brujo she finds herself allied with, and her bubbly best friend, who is her constant source of light. In case it wasn’t already obvious, I wasn’t a fan of the broody dude. I’m usually not. But Rishi, her best friend (who doesn’t even get mentioned in the description!) is amazing. She’s absolutely adorable, and it was also nice to see an interracial pairing in a queer YA book that is between two girls of colour.
Although I did have some issues with the book partway through, all of those concerns were addressed by the end. I wasn’t expecting so much of the story to take place in another world. Daniel Jose Older called it a mix between Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno, which isn’t far off.
If you’re interested in a different take on YA fantasy, definitely pick up Labyrinth Lost!