Have you heard of #buyastrangerabook day? It’s an initiative being run by @BigGreenBooks on Twitter, an independent bookshop in London. Every Wednesday for the last few weeks, the owner has been running this hashtag which lets you pay for a stranger’s book, and/or receive one yourself. Last week, I bought an exciting story book for two little brothers, and the wonderful Claire Fuller was kind enough to buy me a copy of this book, which I’ve been wanting to read for ages!
Book: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Read before: No
Ownership: Hard copy, thanks to a generous stranger!
I love witches. I just love them – all kinds, from mages to Wiccans to teenage girls making potions in plastic water bottles. And while these brujas are not like any witches I’ve read before, they are wholly enjoyable to read about. Labyrinth Lost starts out as if it’s going to be urban paranormal fantasy, but swiftly takes a turn for the more fantastic side of things, where it becomes a quest through a dangerous magic land. I found the writing well-paced, though the plot was a little linear, due to the literal motion of the characters moving forward on their path.
Alex is a very relatable protagonist in her worries and her attitude to her family. She’s nice, too, which is somewhat unusual in a genre that often seems to be focused on ass-kicking. She solves a lot of her problems with sensible thought and kindness, and that’s a very cool thing to read about. Even though I thought she was wrong in wanting to get rid of her magic (not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb), you can see exactly how she reached that conclusion through some very well-woven flashbacks, and through her thoughts about her family. I loved that she wanted to protect her sisters; I got the impression that what Alex thought about them was not what they would think about themselves, so I’m intrigued to focus on Lula in the second book.
The setting of the second part of Labyrinth Lost is Los Lagos, an underworld/otherworld/afterlife space which is the reason that this book has been talked of as a dark Alice in Wonderland. However, I thought it was much more unique than that. It felt like a living, sentient space, and weirdly reminded me of the Dragon Age games. I felt that Los Lagos would not have been out of place in Dragon Age’s dream world, the Fade. This magic, with its associations with death, is spooky and dark and compelling to read about. I wish we’d learned more about recoil, as that seemed like a great reworking of the need for balance in magic.
The other thing I love, apart from witches? Bi representation! And this book has it in bucket-loads. Love triangles aren’t my favourite thing, but I’ve never read one in which the two love interests were different genders before, so that was pretty cool. I liked that Alex was honest about having more physical attraction to one, and more mental attraction to the other – a bit more realistic than everyone being perfect. My one gripe is that neither love interest was particularly well-fleshed out, and I think there was a lot more to say about Nova in particular (maybe I can hope for a Nova-based spin-off!).
I’ll definitely be picking up Bruja Born, the sequel, when it’s out in paperback – it follows Lula, Alex’s sister, who I’m keen to get to know more!
Four out of five stars for this one!