Brooklyn Brujas #1
by Zoraida Cordova
Published on September 6, 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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...
Magic is running rampant this year and Labyrinth Lost is no exception. Cordova introduces us to brujas (not witches) and there are a bunch in Brooklyn. Go figure. But this is the story of a bruja who isn’t so eager to accept her magical gift and the lengths she will go to avoid it end up causing a whole new string of problems.
Starting out, I really enjoyed Labyrinth Lost. Cordova creates a vivid world of family and magic that I could really get in to. I didn’t blink at the lack of detail when it came to the characters because, hey, it’s only the first few chapters. All of that will come later, right? The problem is that it didn’t and while the world-building was strong, the characters weren’t.
I immediately got a “Chosen One” vibe from Alex. She didn’t want her magic, was scared of it, and we all know how that one goes. Turns out she’s an all-powerful bruja the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time. Not only that, but the beings in Los Lagos where she ends up fairly early on in the book think she’s a savior. If the shoe fits…
There’s also the appearance of a love triangle and while I appreciate that it wasn’t completely stereotypical, it’s still there and I never felt like she really connected to either love interest in a way that warranted anything more than friendship. This book gives Alex both a male and female love interest (though the synopsis only suggests the first). As much as I appreciate the addition of the second because there’s a need for more representation in books, it didn’t work for me. Not because of the female/female pairing but because of the characters. There was no connection between Alex or EITHER of her two romance prospects so it felt superficial when added into the plot.
In general, I never felt like any of the characters really grew through the story. Alex followed the path of the Chosen One, so I guess that’s as close as you’d get, but that’s about it. The rest of the cast had a couple descriptors that appeared over and over to define them but that was it. They fell flat and I found myself distanced from them and, in turn, the story.
And while none of the characters were truly memorable, the villain, called The Devourer and supposedly evil incarnate, could’ve been a butterfly for all the harm she did. I never felt like she was a true threat to Alex who, with her Chosen One aura, could do no wrong and overcome every challenge with surprising ease regardless of her physical state. The Devourer was more of a name, a faceless shadow that was supposed to be all badass but really fell short in the end.
But that isn’t to say that I disliked this book. There’s a LOT of action throughout as Alex and Nova battle monsters and overcome one obstacle after the next to reach her family. It felt like a good book for a mini-series the way each challenge is somewhat separate from the others leading into the final battle at the end. I was hooked by the world and the promise of magical mayhem akin to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, finishing most of Labyrinth Lost in one sitting.
I think that, as the first in a series, this was an okay book. I definitely want to see more character development in future installments as without that, I’m likely to let this series go. But the world is solid and there’s a lot of potential and interesting ideas that I can see moving forward.