brooklyn brujas [ labyrinth lost review ]
Alex didn't ask to be a bruja. She wishes she could get rid of her magic--the one thing that keeps her from being normal and happy. but when she finds a way to make her gifts disappear, she gets a whole lot more than she bargained for: her family vanishes, a dangerous creature is on the hunt, and she still has her magic. Alex must trust a mysterious stranger and journey through the magical Los Lagos, throughout which she must also come to terms with her magic and heritage in order to discover who she is.
Labyrinth Lost was, to be quite honest, a plain and simple cover buy. I knew very little about it, other than that it was about brujas, or witches, living in New York, but after seeing that it was Hispanic Heritage Month and that the cover was so gosh darn gorgeous, I decided to get my hands on a copy (side note: there are few things I love more than gold and black books). thankfully, this spur of the moment purchase did not disappoint.
Heavy with Latin American traditions and mythology, subtle with Alice in Wonderland hints, Alex's story is one about family, loyalty, and accepting oneself. Alex is an unsure protagonist, terrified of what her power might do, who gradually grows stronger, both in her magical strength and in her strength as an individual. At first, I found her a little on the whiny side, and that was grating, naturally, but then I realized her discomfort with her identity as a magical person and the way she felt out of loop with the rest of the world made her very much an ordinary teenage girl--which explained the whining. Most teenage girls are still figuring themselves out, and very few are actually confident in who they truly are. I definitely wasn't at that age, and neither is Alex. After making that realization, watching her arc from hesitant child to somewhat confident bruja was almost endearing, because I felt like I got to watch Alex grow up.
The theme of family instantly made me fall in love with this book. I am a sucker for good family stories, especially ones about sisters. *has fond memories of the Penderwicks* Alex has Lula and Rose, but because they have embraced their magic and Alex has not--and because they're sisters--there is often tension and misunderstanding between them. still, even though they fight and don't understand each other all the time, it's obvious how they still love each other: Alex crosses a mysterious and dangerous land to get to their sides, and Lula and Rose work together to help, guide, and encourage Alex as she does so. I was very excited to discover that each sister will be getting a book; however, this story isn't just about sisters. It's about family as a whole. Alex's fear that she drove her father away is a huge part of her reluctance toward magic, and the fact that she feels haunted by the aunt whose reanimation she broke up doesn't help either. The tradition of family within the magical world is important as well, as is seen through the Deathday ceremonies and the need for the ancestor's blessing. Throughout Labyrinth Lost, Alex learns again and again that she needs her family--both the living and the dead--whether she likes it or not.
I didn't expect loyalty and trust to be such a big theme in this book, but it definitely plays a part in Alex's development. she has to deal with two very hurtful betrayals in Labyrinth, and these losses confound and hurt her, but what takes place between the betrayals are what help her get back up on her feet. the first incident breaks her, turning her into a fearful, reclusive child, but while the second one stings just as much, she has the strength and determination to look beyond and get back up again to keep on fighting. in between those two incidents, Alex makes mistakes, steps out of her comfort zone, and learns about herself and her magic. I really loved how the person that Alex spent most of her life fearing ended up being the one who believed and trusted in her all along. Alex learned from betrayal and found the loyalty to her friends, family, and heritage that helped keep her strong.
|I'm still mad about a certain someone tho. take a hint from Eleven, man.|
I've already touched on this a little, but at the beginning of Labyrinth, Alex feels like she's lost. she doesn't want to belong in the bruja world, but she doesn't fit with the "regular" world no matter how hard she tries. her only friend is Rishi, and even Rishi doesn't know what she is or what she can do. she's afraid to get close to others, because she thinks she drives them away. but as she crosses Los Lagos and confronts her mistakes head on, she experiences growth that is wonderful to see. I wouldn't say she's some fearless warrior at the end of the book--she is still a sixteen year old girl--but she's a little braver, a little happier, and a little bit more content with herself as she is. she's still got a lot of growth waiting to happen, but she's gotten past a lot of the things that were holding her back. and sometimes I feel like that's the best kind of story to read. character growth doesn't happen all at once. it wouldn't be realistic for Alex to suddenly be uber-confident and unafraid, to be out-going and brave. that happens over time. and hopefully, over the course of the next two books, we'll get to see that.
|literally how I felt about Alex throughout most of this book. my child.|
My complaints with Labyrinth Lost are few and far between. my main grievance was the amount of typos I noticed--but I mostly got hung up on this because there so many early on, before I was completely enveloped in the story. I also felt like the story could have been a little longer; character development and action sometimes seemed a little rushed, especially in the middle. that beginning tho--I loved that beginning. really set the tone for the rest of the story. finally, I lowkey wish the love triangle between Nova, Alex, and Rishi had been given a little more development. I really would have liked to see Alex and Rishi's relationship begin, because I think that could have given their relationship later on a lot more credibility. without that backstory, which we all know is there, it kind of felt like Rishi was just there to be a love interest--or to be Alex's personal cheerleader. the attraction between Nova and Alex sometimes seemed a little forced at times, but overall, I wasn't too irked by that or by the presence of a love triangle, like I usually am. maybe it was because of the twist of a bisexual protagonist; maybe it's because I'm getting soft in my old age. who knows.
|maybe love triangles aren't the all encompassing evil of YA any more. yeah, I said that. fight me bro.|
either way, this book was beautiful, unique, and a wonderful surprise of a read. I can't wait for Lula's book (which I think is the next one? I don't really know?), and I highly recommend Labyrinth Lost if you enjoy coming of age stories, magical realism, or strong family units--or all the above!
see you in a few days for an exciting post about my NaNoWriMo novel, tethered!!!! (if you can't tell, I'm a wee bit excited).