Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
You want some diverse fantasy? Amazing characters? New and interesting worlds? Exciting and fresh mythos? Then this book is for you.
In many ways, I kind of wish The Bone Witch had been this brilliant. Labyrinth Lost opens in Brooklyn with young bruja, Alejandra (aka Alex), dreading her powers. She witnessed her father’s disappearance–or maybe death–when he goes to take care of her dead and possessed cat, Miluna. After that, Alex’s father disappears, and she can’t let go of the guilt that his demise was all her fault. Alex can feel her power, and she tries desperately to suppress it even though her mother and sisters (Lula and Rose) have their own powers and push Alex to come into her own.
And that’s just the set-up. Things go to hell (literally) when Alex attempts a spell on her Deathday to remove her powers and her connection from her ancestors. Instead, she opens a portal to Las Lagos and traps her family their–and they’re at the mercy of an evil, corrupt bruja.
The Las Lagos world is stunning. The book was good when Alex dealt with her family and her powers in Brooklyn, but when she and Nova cross into Las Lagos, things go batshit–and it’s wonderful. A mysterious brjuo, Nova, helps Alex travel to Las Lagos, and his tragic yet interesting past becomes central to the plot. Nova couldn’t complete his Deathday ceremony, so he lost control of his powers, and that’s gradually killing him. Fortunately, Alex finds other allies in Las Lagos. The native avians and fauns are amazing characters even though they don’t play major roles. Each character feels distinct, and I also liked Alex’s friend–and definitely more than a friend later–Rishi. In a world of magic, Rishi is purely human, but she follows Alex into the portal to Las Lagos anyway. Rishi has no powers, no defense against the horrors of Las Lagos, and Alex sacrifices herself to keep Rishi alive. The story is incredibly powerful up to this point.
Unfortunately, the ending wimped out a little bit. The story never revolves Nova’s moral quandary. It tries, but it leaves his feelings for Alex and his motivations a little loose for the sequel. And yes, there’s obviously going to be a sequel. Alex’s missing father is dangled as an unsolved mystery throughout the novel. At the end (not a huge spoiler now), it’s still unresolved and used as a teasing cliffhanger. If Alex’s missing dad could’ve been worked into the final battle, it could’ve provided some twist or surprise to the ending. The battle with the evil brjua is straight forward and has zero surprises, which was the most shocking thing about a story that kept adding layers to it every chance it got. Maybe I’m also a cliff hanger hater, but this one worked, even if I thought it was a bit unnecessary.
Still, I loved so much about this story. Alex is such a well-fleshed out character, and her emotional struggle with her family and her history drives the plot the entire time. The side characters (except maybe the evil bruja sorceress) were well-written and felt organic and real throughout the story. This made some of the weaker moments fly by, and the alternative universe of Las Lagos is unique and where the real story takes place.
Rating: 5 stars for most of it, but it lost momentum at the end. The unresolved plot threads were VERY unresolved, but I loved the characters and their worlds enough to enjoy this story thoroughly.