Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

27969081Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

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 boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

Labyrinth Lost is a really engaging story with a fully-realised magic system that draws from real-life Latin American traditions and cultures. It also has a gorgeous cover. I mean, look at that thing.

The protagonist, Alex, is terrified of her own magic. And pretty much of her own shadow, though, given the horrible things that have happened around her since she was a child, it’s understandable. Nobody wants to be attacked by possessed creatures or have a corpse fall on you, much less when you’re a child. So while I felt the actions she took to remove her own powers were highly irresponsible, I can understand why she thought that was the only option she had. Her godmother, who should have been around to teach her but had died too early, wasn’t around to guide her and she shied away from any kind of magical training, leaving her knowledge woefully limited.

There is a love triangle in this book, but it’s not the typical ‘girl loves two guys and has to choose between them’ kind. Alex is bisexual, though the word isn’t used within the text given she’s still figuring out who she is, and one love interest is a boy and the other a girl. Alex, still in the process of awakening to her own orientation, picks up on her feelings towards the female love interest much later than the reader does. The female love interest is also funny and adorable and I love her.

Zoraida Cordova has a lovely writing style; not too flowery, but still rich and beautiful to read. She has a knack for description and I want to learn how to write like her. This book is an education in how to cultivate a gorgeous yet non-invasive writing style. One section that really grabbed me is from near the end of the book, about Alex’s mother:

I look at her face. The smattering of gray hair that she’s named after each of us, the crow’s-feet at the corner of her eyes. Other brujas get glamours to hide them, but my mom never does.

It’s just so endearing. Alex’s mother doesn’t feel as real to me as her sisters, but I imagine that’s by design given the woman was a single mother who didn’t get to spend as much time with her children as she would’ve liked, busy being the sole breadwinner in the family.

Just before the climax, one of the characters does something absolutely deplorable and I was honestly afraid that they would be forgiven for it, no matter how badly that character knowingly screwed things up for Alex and her entire family. The decision Alex ultimately makes I definitely feel is the right one.

There were a few little things I didn’t like about this book. First, the repetitious use of the phrase “bipolar eyes” to describe a character whose eyes couldn’t decide between green and blue. I hope Cordova learns it isn’t appropriate to trivialise an actual mental illness in that manner and avoids it in the rest of the books in this series.

There are also a few uses of “crazy” here and there, but it might be up to individual readers to decide whether they find the uses offensive or not. I’m not an authority on the matter. One use is to describe the protagonist’s “crazy Uncle Julio” who is an eccentric older man who likes to talk conspiracy theories. There is an occasion Alex uses it to describe herself when she could be genuinely worried she is imagining a voice she’s hearing. Just thought I’d mention it in case it bothers anyone.

One of the characters also uses the phrase “man parts” in a cissexist manner to assume a statue of someone is male. She is somewhat corrected in that the Deos don’t really fit the male/female binary.

The problematic aspects were fairly limited, but I thought they were worth mentioning to people sensitive to them could either avoid them or prepare themselves in advance.

Overall, I really loved this book. The way it ended has me excited for the sequel and where it could all be going next.


10 thoughts on “Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

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