Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
She is light in the hopeless places. She is the sky when the night blazes.
Alex has known two things all her life: she’s a bruja, a powerful witch, and she doesn’t want her magic. When Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power, she loses her family in one fell swoop. Enlisting the help of bad-boy brujo, Nova, seems like her only option, for she knows he has secrets of his own.
Alex and Nova set out on a quest to Los Lagos, a land of magic and death, to find her family and restore balance to the magical world. Along the way, she learns the true meaning of power and discovers herself in ways she never imagined.
The second I laid eyes on this cover, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. I snagged a copy at BEA 2016 but didn’t get the chance to read it until this month. What started as a visually terrifying, culturally enigmatic novel soon turned into a story about a strong young Latina bruja (witch) on a quest to right her destiny and embrace her true identity-even if that sealed her own death. Zoraida Córdova wins at life with this novel; she did so many things right. She introduces us to a perfectly developed character group, provides a unique spin on religion and mythology (finally… something that doesn’t stem directly from Greek mythology…), and actually develops her world-building. As I was reading, I kept doing research to see how real all of the celebrations and gods were that she introduces to us.
Labyrinth Lost is told in three parts. The first takes place in modern-day Brooklyn. The second part highlights Alex and Nova’s journey through the world of Los Lagos, which reminded me of Alice in Wonderland (which I LOVED). Then, finally, the third part is their confrontation at the Tree of Souls, where her family is being held as a result of her mistaken Canto.
In Brooklyn, Alex, our heroine, doesn’t want her magic; she doesn’t have just any magic, she’s an Encantrix, the most powerful witch that has been in her family for generations. She’s seen how it has done nothing but bring pain and death to her family and she’s determined to rid herself of it. Alex lives in constant inner turmoil because her older sister, Lula, who possesses the power of healing, keeps pressuring her to pray to the Deos to give Alex their magic. No one suspects that Alex might, in fact, be hiding her power because of trauma she experienced as a child. The author really does a good job of helping the reader understand Alex’s severe aversion to this magical force as a result of this trauma. Since then, magic has been a source of fear. Alex not only fears herself, but hovers on the outskirts of her family and dreads her Deathday, the day she’ll be forced to receive her family’s blessing; she’s isolated and alone and you feel her pain very acutely.
Córdova’s invention of the Deathday was also really interesting; a Deathday is a celebration similar to a quinceañera, except where your family, both dead and alive, give you their blessing to use magic to its full potential. When Alex attempts a Canto, without training, things go very wrong and she accidentally sends her entire family to a purgatory-esque place where they will slowly wither away forever.
Alex can’t find her family alone. Nova, a local brujo, offers to help her find them and shows her the way to Los Lagos, the underworld of sorts for the Deos and witches. This is when I started to compare the novel to Alice in Wonderland (which is NOT a bad thing, definitely one of my favorite stories of all time). Alex and Nova weave their way across a river of tortured souls and through wastelands of bone and ash. The fantastical world created by Córdova was absolutely vivid and unique; definitely one of my favorite aspects of Labyrinth Lost. She kept everything teetering on the edge of disturbing and I loved every minute of it.
Lastly (even though I could keep going), I found the overarching theme of identity to be my favorite aspect of the novel. Alex must find her family at the Tree of Souls, where they’re being held by The Devourer, an evil witch that went rogue in an attempt to feed off of magic to make herself more powerful. It is here that Alex confronts herself and her fears. Alex struggles very deeply because she knows what her destiny is but hasn’t wanted to accept it (and the reader fully understands that motivation). However, Alex knows that she cannot live without her family. The struggle she faces and perspective she gains by crossing Los Lagos and encountering The Devourer reveals that she needs to accept her true identity. The reader understands every choice she makes because it’s motivated by her love for family and the identity she has as a part of that family.
There does seem to be a sequel for Alex and her story, which I am VERY excited about. I will definitely be looking forward to the next installment of the Brooklyn Brujas series. Check out this novel if you want to dive into a story of a strong, diverse heroine who journeys through a disturbing Wonderland only to find her true self along the way!
Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.