This book is the #DSFFBookClub pick of the month.
I do not usually go out and buy books as soon as they release for a couple of reasons. First, I do not necessarily like hardback books (although I am slowly coming around) and hardbacks at full price are a huge hit on my book budget. I usually have a great amount of patience for waiting, particularly for paperback and/or mass market paperback versions to get published. If I do buy a hardcover book shortly after the release date, it is because I am super exited and could not leave the bookstore I am currently in without purchasing. When I picked up Labyrinth Lost at my local bookstore, I knew I had to buy it!
This book follows the adventures of Alejandra, her family, and her friends through the wonderful and fantastic world of Los Lagos. The spectacular thing about Alex and her family is that they are brujas living in Brooklyn within a community of other brujas and brujos. Alex comes from a long line of strong brujas but on the eve of her death day, has second thoughts about coming into her full power. This dissonance fuels the main event that alters the course of life for Alex and her family. I definitely do not want to spoil this book, but I will talk about some criticisms I have heard below and my responses and thoughts overall.
There has been criticism that Labyrinth Lost fell flat because of stunted character development, the ‘love triangle’ between Alex, Rishi, and Nova, and the foreseeable story line; however I must disagree on all three counts for various reasons. First, the development of characters and the new world which in we find ourselves: Los Lagos. I am always impressed with authors who choose to write high fantasy because there is the huge challenge of world building and doing so in a way where the readers remember details and quirks of the world without the reading being arduous. After reading, I feel like I can recall Los Lagos from my mind and imagination, like I was there with Alex, Nova, and Rishi. Since this is the Brooklyn Brujas Trilogy, Zoraida Córdova has a solid foundation to build off from. I would also love to see spin off series or stories about Alex’s ancestors. Needless to say, I think there is a lot of detail in this world and even more to expand on for future books!
Second, I went into the book expecting a sappy and possibly annoying love triangle between Nova, Rishi, and Alex. I felt like the author handled the different relationships well and with subtlety. It was obvious to me as a reader that Alex was attracted to both Nova and Rishi but it was not in an overt ‘romance novel’ type of way. Their relationships grew stronger as they faced more trials together. Oh, and did I mention Alex is bisexual and portrayed in a very positive and natural way! I have come across many authors who struggle with representing marginalized characters realistically because the assumption is everyone is White cishet able men. This usually comes with overt descriptions of characters skin color, facial features, sexual orientation, ability, etc… For example. “Because Alex is bisexual, she was attracted to both Rishi and Nova.” This type of description feels neither realistic or compelling. On the contrary, Zoraida Córdova lets a natural story line progress and to me this made Alex’s identities shine through very positively and realistically.
Last, I do not think a foreseeable story line makes for a flat book. While teens with powers fighting a big bad in a magical world is nothing new, Labyrinth Lost was able to capture this story line in a fresh and new way. There are two very unique about this book: the infusion of culture, racial, and sexual orientation identity and the magical system. Since I have already talked a bit about identity, I want to talk about magic and cantos. Many high fantasy worlds do not necessarily explain how magic works and I really like books that dive into the magical systems. In Labyrinth Lost, every action has a reaction, the system of magic is always balanced. Consequently, brujas and brujos face magical recoil, a physical negative affect to their bodies after using magic and cantos. What an amazing idea!
I also want to give a shout out to the other diversity shown in this book. Rishi is Guyanese and a part of the Hindu faith, differing from the Gods of the brujas and brujos. For me, this starts the conversation about interfaith relationships and how people of different faiths can come to common understandings of each other and exist together. I loved the different characters and thought they had enough depth and development within their own identities to make for a compelling cast. I look forward to see more character development throughout the series.
By no means is Labyrinth Lost a perfect book; however, I think it is a fun and engaging book we need. We need more Latina protagonists. We need more Latina LGBTQ+ protagonists. I am pretty excited for the rest of the trilogy. Author Zoraida Córdova has let her fan base know each book will be about a different sister in the family – Lula is next! I think the author was able to create something special from an #ownvoices perspective. We definitely need diverse books, especially in the Young Adult genre, giving our young readers positive narratives about characters with different identities and celebrating different cultures. Labyrinth Lost gets a huge recommendation from me and I look forward to the next book in the series!
Final Rating: 4.7/5