Thursday, September 15, 2016

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova - Review, Excerpt, and Giveaway

Author: Zoraida Córdova
Publication Date:  6 September, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Series:  Brooklyn Brujas, book 1
Genre:  YA Fantasy/Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 14 and up 
Rating: 4 Stars

~ I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ~ 

Book Description:

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...

Book Trailer:

My Review:

First off can we just talk about how fabulous the cover is? This is one of those books that you buy for the cover, stay for the story, and then lovingly display in your favorite bookcase.  I love the look and feel of it, the girl with the Sugar Skull face puts you right into the perfect frame of mind for when you open the cover and enter the world of the Brooklyn Brujas.

Alex (Alejandra) is a 16 year old girl growing up in Brooklyn, NY.  She's the middle of three sisters, she's the quiet type, the studious type, the easily forgotten or quietly (not so quietly) teased girl in the halls of the high school who is struggling with her identity and trying to find her place within the world. Seems like an average 16 year old right?  Wrong, because Alex isn't average at all, but Alex wants to be.  Alex comes from a long line of Brujas and Brujos, or what we might think of as Witches and she's coming up on her Deathday (think of it as a debutante party or a Quinceañera) what should be a celebration of her power but is instead something Alex fears.  You see Alex doesn't want her power, she's been hiding it from her family for years because she knows that something isn't right with it, she knows that it doesn't help, it hurts, she knows that it makes people leave, but the thing is in truth Alex really doesn't know and that not knowing is going to lead her down a 'rabbit hole' that will change her and her world forever.

So I had a little bit of mixed feelings for Alex but that could possibly be because I am technically old enough to be her mother, haha.  I liked her a lot.  I like her personality, I like her determination, I like her drive and I LOVE the way she is with her family but, (this is where the old mom in me comes out) I didn't like her selfishness.  It's an odd selfishness too, because you look at how she interacts with her sisters, friend and her mother and you would tell me I don't know what I am talking about, but when it comes to her beliefs in her families heritage and abilities she doesn't take anyone else into account but her and how things make her feel.  Now, she's a sixteen year old girl and in reality we are all selfish at sixteen (heck at 40 there some of us still are) but I wanted her to acknowledge that part of herself sooner or perhaps have someone call her out on it...then again, where would the story have gone if she had been. Would she still been the same girl that tried to refuse her 'gift', would she have ended up on a scary and redeeming journey?  Ultimately this is a book about a young, sacred, lost girl trying to find her way in her world and with herself and to do that she has to 'fall down that rabbit hole' and open herself to all the pain and all the reward that comes with being who she is meant to be no matter how the world sees her.  So long story short, (ha) I know that the selfishness in her has to be there, it has to play out, but I don't have to feel good about it and that's okay it doesn't take away from my ultimate enjoyment of the story and it gives us all something to really ponder about ourselves and if we have opened up to who we are or are we also being selfish and trying to hold ourselves back because we fear the world around us.

Let's talk Nova.  I am a Nova Fan, huge, HUGE Nova fan.  He will wiggle his way into your heart.  He will make you cry, he will make you laugh, he will piss you right the heck off, but you will fall in love with him.  He is a character that you don't see often in books, his depth and development is...honestly I don't have words to explain how rich this character felt to me.  This whole book to me was a saturation of color.  While I read it I kept thinking of it as this gorgeous living oil painting with deep rich colors, sweeping strokes, wild movements that makes the canvas it's painted on full of dimension and depth and at the center of this was Nova.  He is the brightest and darkest color, he is the tallest peaks and the lowest valleys in the texture of the painting.  In a story that is supposed to highlight the heroine, Nova, the anti-hero, eclipses her.  I don't know if it is because he has so much more story to tell, and it feels as though Alex's story is over.  I don't know if it is because while the author started writing a story about Alex she 'fell in love' with the character of Nova and he simply ran away with her original story.  I don't know the reason but Nova became for me the center of this book and the character that I felt the most strongly about, the character that I want to see again and again.

With that in mind I will say that the character of Rishi who is the ultimate love interest in this book, which I was really excited about just did not connect with me at all.  She was a minimal player in this book and unfortunately the made her and Alex's relationship feel a bit contrived.  I loved them together as best friends, they fit that way, but when they became more it just didn't work.  I think it is because Rishi is just not a major player for a good portion of the book.  We spend a lot of time with Nova and Alex and we're allowed to let them grow on us.  That doesn't happen with Rishi and since she is the major love interest for Alex it ends up leaving us feeling flat as readers.  Goodness knows YA needs more LBGTQ stories, especially I am finding in the F/F range so I hope that in future books if their relationship is going to remain strong we will see them together and get to know them better as a couple.

Labyrinth Lost is ultimately a beautifully told coming of age story.  It is lush in its description and world building.  It slows considerably in the middle but thankfully it's beauty will keep you flipping the pages as you I hope like me begin to see it as a living canvas in your mind.  It is a world you have never seen before with culture and lore coming together to make story that has the feel of an old world folk lore with a new world twist.  Fantasy and Paranormal readers will love this book, readers looking for POC books, books with a LBGTQ story, readers looking for a book that they can loose themselves in...this is the book for you!




Follow our voices, sister.
Tell us the secret of your death.
—-Resurrection Canto, 
Book of Cantos

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”

But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane--wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.

When my sisters started snoring, I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.

A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom’s warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown--ups prepared the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see.

The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch’s New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred--year--old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once--lovely face.

Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn’t stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.

So I opened the basement door.

Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.

A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.

“Sh!” I brushed the cat’s head back.

Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.

I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.

They were dancing.

Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles—-the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise—hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.

And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.

Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white skirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.

Then, the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick, and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull, and a broken scream lodged in my throat.

The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria’s reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her ankles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name: Alejandra.

She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying forward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.

Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, “What’s the girl doing out of bed?”

There was the scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away.

My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.

“Never,” she said. “You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle.”

I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I had fallen asleep.

I wasn’t. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.

“One day you’ll learn,” she whispered.

Then she went back down the street--lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria’s body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, “Again."

(Two copies of Labyrinth Lost with signed Labyrinth Lost bookmarks)

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Labyrinth Lost Coloring Page

About the Author:

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic.

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