Shannon reviews Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Labyrinth Lost is the first book in Zoraida Cordova’s captivating young adult series entitled Brooklyn Brujas, and it’s one I didn’t expect to fall head over heals for. In 2019, I picked the book up, but couldn’t seem to concentrate on the story. I eventually put it down, deciding it just wasn’t the book for me at that particular point in time. I went on and read other things until the fall of 2020, when I decided to give it another chance. The second time really was the charm, because the story grabbed me right from the start, and I ended up flying through the book in a little over twenty-four hours.

Alex can’t think of anything she dislikes as much as she dislikes magic. To her, it’s at the root of all of her family’s problems, and no matter how often her mother and older sister remind her of the honor that goes along with being a bruja, Alex just wants to get rid of her powers and live a normal life.

She thinks her Deathday celebration is the perfect opportunity to decline her magical abilities once and for all. True, most brujas look forward to their Deathdays, reuniting with deceased ancestors and honoring the deities who gifted them their powers, but Alex has a totally different plan. Instead of acknowledging and being grateful for her magical gifts, Alex plans to work a powerful spell to banish magic from her life forever.

As I’m sure you can imagine, things don’t go quite the way Alex anticipated. Suddenly, her family has disappeared seemingly into thin air, leaving Alex alone with Nova, a mysterious Brujo she’s not sure she can trust. He’s been kind to her in the past, but that doesn’t mean he’s the right person to help her reverse the harm she’s done. Still, she’s desperate to rescue her family from what has befallen them, and when Nova tells her he knows how to free them, she reluctantly joins forces with him and embarks on a quest that will change her in ways she never could have imagined.

Alex is a wonderfully complex heroine, with her fair share of flaws and idiosyncrasies. I sometimes found myself annoyed with her tendency for drama, but she does grow and change as the story progresses. The author does a fantastic job giving the reader just enough insight into who Alex is as a person without ruining the story arc. Her complicated relationship with her family feels completely relatable as does the uncertainty she feels about her sexuality.

Alex’s sexuality isn’t the main point of the novel, but it is an important element of her need to be accepted for exactly who she is. She’s known she was bisexual for quite a while, but she’s never been sure how to tell her family how she feels. She’s constantly torn between doing what she thinks is expected of her and being true to herself. You might think this sort of inner conflict would take away from the action and adventure of this fantasy novel, but it doesn’t do so at all. Instead, it adds an element of realism to the story, highlighting Alex’s struggle to fit into multiple worlds.

I didn’t end up loving Nova as a character. Something about him rubbed me the wrong way as soon as he appeared on the page. At first, I wondered if it was just because Alex herself wasn’t sure she could trust him, but as I continued reading, he started to fall the slightest bit flat for me. I wanted a better understanding of his motivations, and although some of my questions about him were eventually answered in the second half of the book, it felt like a case of too little too late. Even so, Labyrinth Lost has much to recommend it, and I definitely plan to continue with the series.

Danika reviews Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

labyrinth lost

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!