Sometimes expectations can hold you back.
The description of Labyrinth Lost clearly states that this is a book about a bruja, a real witch with actual powers, that goes on a Supernatural adventure. I don’t think I read the description of this book before I read it. I know I got it because a friend of mine mentioned it on her youtube channel (The Novel Sanctuary) and I was in some need for a little YA in my life, but somehow between buying it and reading it, in my mind, I changed what it was about.
In my mind, I expected a book a little more grounded in our reality. I expected slight fantasy, but more along the lines of voodoo or Santeria, I didn’t expect an entire world rooted in magic. At first, because I was not in the mindset to take in a world so different than my own, I kept grasping at the aspects of our world, trying to ignore the magic, much like the main character, Alex was doing. Partly because of this, I started to dislike the character of Alex, and dislike the story.
The book is split into 3 parts, by Part 2, I finally accepted that I had to fully put aside my assumptions of the “sinmago” world and embrace the reality of the “brujas” created by Cordova, to fully appreciate the story being presented.
This book is meant to be read like The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. A completely separate reality and world to take in. People still feel and hurt and love, but we can not expect things to work the same as in the world we know, where the dead speaking is normal, and magic flows like water. It took me too long to accept this, I admit, but once I accepted this, I really got wrapped into the adventure, and I REALLY enjoyed it.
I’m starting to think maybe it’s a personal flaw, that I don’t like the introduction and build up phase. Maybe I just crave the adventure. The adventure here was enjoyable, in a child-like, fantasy way. It was rare that I doubted that everyone would have a happy ending. This book was definitely written for young adults. Sometimes when reading YA novels, I think, this might be too serious, too deep, too upsetting for teenagers, I didn’t really feel this here. Even in the worse moments, I still found this appropriate for young adults.
This, to sum it up, was a coming of age story about accepting yourself and your family history, even when you’re being surrounded by a culture that you might want to identify more for. In this way, it’s easy to identify with as the child of immigrants. Alex struggles with her powers, and her culture, even as her sisters and her mother embrace it. This is very reminiscent of a person who might be stuck between two cultures, especially with one directly affecting the other (i.e. where one of your cultures is not accepted by the other, and you may feel ostracized or stuck between two identities).
By the end, Alex learns she must embrace all parts of herself to move forward. She has to face not only her powers, but her feelings for her best friend, her fear of the dead, her guilt behind the loss of her dad, her inability to accept help from her family, and the pain of her dad leaving to be able to save herself and be whole. Alex takes this all in gradually during the length of her trip, so that as she’s facing these obstacles, it feels less like a series of trials, and more like a natural progression that lends her strength and the ability to eventually defeat the evil of Los Lagos.
I definitely think, especially with the tone this book ends with, when Cordova releases the next book in her “Brooklyn Brujas” series, I’ll give it a try.
I’ll end this review with fangirling over my favorite aspect of this novel: RISHI. Rishi is amazing. She’s funny, she gives her whole heart to every situation, she’s accepting, she’s an open book, and she honestly reminds me a lot of myself, and not only because she’s Guyanese too, even though that definitely helps. So yeah, this book is worth reading for her one liners alone.