Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
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 marks 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…
This review for Zoraida Córdova’s well-written Labyrinth Lost has actually been in the works for a very long time — I actually finished the book way back the early days of February. At the time I was frustratingly suffering from a dreaded reading slump that made it almost impossible to read, and once I actually finished this book the review remained uncompleted in my drafts for weeks since. But, I will be honest with you. Whilst I enjoyed Labyrinth Lost very much, I was slightly disappointed. I don’t know whether this was because I had such high expectations (there was a lot of hype surrounding this book on Twitter) or because I was experiencing such a horrible reading slump. But, whatever the reason, Labyrinth Lost was only a three-star book for me. I repeat, I personally see this as a three-star book. I know that a lot of people view this book as five-stars, but I just did not enjoy it that much. If you are looking for five-star reviews, there are plenty on Goodreads.
Why did I originally decide to read Labyrinth Lost? Well, last year when the Diversity Read-A-Thon was being discussed regularly on Twitter, a lot of readers were suggesting Labyrinth Lost as an excellent diverse and culturally appropriate book to read. This is because Labyrinth Lost is an own voices book. Once hearing other people’s opinions, I automatically felt this overwhelming need to have this book in my possession and I instantly ordered it. I mean, how could I not? Especially since this book was being celebrated for not only being truly magical, but also because it was appropriately portraying the bisexual community and latinx culture.
I want to point out that this book definitely had the elements to be truly spectacular. Labyrinth Lost is undeniably filled with an incredible sense of wonder, and magic is beautifully woven throughout every page, every sentence, every word. It highlights the importance of family, and the challenging search for self-acceptance and self-love. And this is all achieved through an interesting and beautiful world that, without a doubt, gives me instant Alice in Wonderland vibes. Despite suffering from a gigantic reading slump, I desperately wanted to know what was happening and wanted to understand the world and characters that Córdova created.
Yet, as much as I wanted to love every single aspect of this novel, I couldn’t. Whilst the story is wonderful and the magic is different, I found it difficult to connect with the characters and found Córdova’s character development the weakest aspect of her novel. To be honest, the majority of the characters actually came across as particularly flat. Three-dimensional and well-written characters will definitely make or break a story — and unfortunately, the characters in Labyrinth Lost are not entirely fleshed out yet. I am interested in seeing how they develop in future instalments, but as of right now, these characters still need more development to create long-lasting connections with all readers.
The basic idea of Labyrinth Lost is that Alex is the most powerful bruja of her generation, and must use these growing powers to ensure her family’s safe return after she tries to stop the powers from potentially controlling her. Alex could have been a very strong, relatable heroine. Unfortunately, she falls into the trope of the “Chosen One” or the “special snowflake”. Alex constantly spends the majority of Labyrinth Lost telling us why she shouldn’t be the “chosen one”, why she shouldn’t have these magical powers and abilities, and that all she wants is to be “normal”. This type of protagonist annoys me immensely. For example, she was constantly putting herself down, trying to portray herself as someone who was simply “plain”, instead of one of the most powerful young women of her time. On page 122, she states:
My dad had pretty eyes too. The same stark gray as Lula’s. Me, I got plain brown eyes to match the plain girl I’ve always wanted to be.
Alex had the potential to be a truly fascinating and strong protagonist. But instead, her quest for normalcy, her hatred for her destiny and her denial were traits that made me question whether or not to continue the book. I hope that Córdova develops Alex more throughout the next sequel — I have my fingers crossed, because Alex could be an outstanding protagonist.
The f/f romance was definitely one of the main elements that encouraged me to read Labyrinth Lost. This is because young adult fiction lacks a lot of appropriate and well-written bisexual representation. The f/f romance was one of my favourite aspects of the novel. I will warn everyone that Labyrinth Lost does have a long triangle. I am not a gigantic fan of love triangles, unless they are well-written. Unfortunately, this love triangle is not the best one I have ever read, but it does an excellent job at developing the relationship between Alex and Rishi. There was an obvious connection between these beautiful young women from the first moment they are together, a relationship that I actually look forward to reading about in future instalments. However, I did not feel as though there was any connection between Alex and Nova. This could have been because Nova was under-developed, and was simply the “bad boy” type. I hope that Córdova spends time on developing the relationship between Alex and Rishi more, and forgetting about the non-existent relationship between Alex and Nova. I’m just not invested. #sorrynotsorry
Overall, whilst this book was definitely not what I expected and did not live up to my expectations, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that is searching for a well-written and own voices fantasy novel. The magical world that Córdova explores is remarkable and I look forward to seeing how it comes alive in the sequel. Hopefully the next instalment develops the characters more — that way readers will be able to build stronger connections with the characters.