Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC!
“Enchanting and complex. Every page is filled with magic.”-Danielle Paige, New York Times best-selling author of Dorothy Must Die
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…
I went into this book knowing very little: a bi protagonist, a magical world based on Central American culture, and a…labyrinth of some sort? I very much enjoyed what I got: unique world-building, character growth, a surprising amount of feelings, and old tropes made new through a stand-out setting.
Alex is part of a family of brujas, but is scared of her powers for a variety of reasons that are well-justified in the narrative. When she comes into her power (which turns out to be greater than anyone expected), she is advised by the resident Mysterious Attractive Boy to do a spell to get rid of them. It goes wrong, of course, and she ends up accidentally sending her family into the clutches of the resident Evil Powerful Enemy. Alex goes on a journey to save them.
What follows is an adventure story with a strong undercurrent of family and a rich, original magical world. As many times as I’ve seen the “protagonist goes from fearing powers to accepting them and kicking ass” trope, there’s something so intrinsically appealing about it. This was the case in this book; I loved Alex’s growth.
Actually, that goes for all the tropes in the book; there are a lot of story elements that I’ve seen before multiple times, but the setting and cultural aspects gave Labyrinth Lost such a breath of life that even the tropes felt very fresh. There is a love triangle, but it’s quite low-key (and one of the sides is f/f)! Labyrinth Lost will be a welcome addition to my list of favorite new urban fantasy novels.
I would have liked to see just a little more fleshing out of Rishi’s character; while she still felt like a real character, she never felt quite as developed as I would have wanted someone with a role as central as hers to be, and that kept her at a like-but-don’t-love level for me.
Is it just me, or did Alex level up on her powers really, really quickly when she got to Los Lagos, at exactly the most plot-convenient moments? This was something I noticed about three-quarters of the way into the book, and it kept bothering me.
This is the first thing that comes up whenever anyone discusses this book, so I’ll just say it now: the worldbuilding! The author uses elements of her own Latin-American culture to build the magical dark wonderland of Los Lagos, and the result is a world completely different from anything I’ve ever seen in fantasy before, where just when you think you know what to expect, you unearth a new corner, a new twist.
Alex’s relationships with her mother and her sisters was a high point for me. Even when she was frustrated with them for pushing her into a life she didn’t want, even when she felt out of place, even when she made decisions that hurt them, it was so obvious that they all loved each other. I appreciated that the power of family was such a huge theme in this story, and would especially love to see more of Lula and Rose in future books.
And of course, the characters are wonderful. Alex has a very strong voice and a clear character arc and her thought process is written in a way where even her not-so-good choices make sense. I totally did not expect to like Nova, but my heart melted for him by the end; he has some great lines, and his backstory broke me. Rishi was just precious, and her unfailing support of Alex was the cutest thing ever. As is typical of me, the group moments between the three of them were among my favorites.
Yes! I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for some new urban fantasy to get excited about.