An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading.
I can't spell the word labyrinth to save my life. Thank god for spell check.
When I first heard about this book, I was excited for it. The plot sounded a lot of fun and I liked the idea of a book revolving around brujas. It's an angle I haven't seen before in fiction. Then I DIDN'T want to read it because people kept rubbing the diversity angle in my face (not on here, in other places). I have no problem with diverse books, I just don't like being told to read a book BECAUSE it's diverse, if that makes sense. Tell me the book is good because a 15 year old bruja is kicking ass in the underworld, not because she's Latina. But then I saw someone else put it down for the diverse read bingo square, realized it counted, and I got past my stubbornness and checked it out from the library. So. Here we go.
Labyrinth Lost follow Alex, a bruja who does not want to be a bruja. To make things worse for her, she's not just a bruja but the most magical kind of bruja. If you thought things couldn't get any worse for her than that, you'd be wrong. In an attempt to get rid of her powers, Alex accidentally banishes her family to hell. Makes me feel less bad about crashing my dad's car into the side of the house (forgive me, it's late and I'm in a silly mood). To save them, she joins up with a mysterious brujo, Nova, and her best friend, Rishi, and travels to Los Lagos to save her family from the Devourer.
If I were to sum this book up with one sentence, I would say that it is an example of what YA can be when done well. YA can be profoundly deep and soul shattering, like Wintergirls, true. Or it can be cringingly bad with the cheesy love triangles and overload of angst. Labyrinth Lost is neither of these things. It is an adventure I feel teens can connect to. It's core situation - not feeling like you fit in your skin, not wanting to belong to the group you do, etc. - is something a lot of teens identify with. And most of all, it's fun! This is a book I could easily see any teen picking up and being able to enjoy and I love it for that. Sure, it's a little Hallmarky at points and it's not "deep" literature, but it doesn't have to be. Teen deserve books that are just fun AND well written.
The plot of the story is great. In all fairness the first section did move along a little slowly. It was mostly setting up Alex's angst, the world of the story, etc. So yeah, that could have been trimmed down. But once they get to Los Lagos the story is amazing. I read most of the book today, in different bursts, because I needed to know what happened next. The world building was incredible. I loved the imagery of Los Lagos, the way myths and legends played out there. It sounds like an incredibly beautiful world I would LOVE to see translated to film. Seriously, if there was ever a book to adapt into a movie, I think this one is an excellent candidate. Just keep Tim Burton away from it with a ten foot pole.
The characters themselves were interesting. I loved Alex as a protagonist. She felt real to me. In some ways she kind of reminds me of my sister too, though my sister's much louder than she is. There was an interesting flaw with all the supporting characters though. They didn't feel fully developed. Like, I wouldn't call them fully dimensional characters. In many ways, they felt like stereotypes: The Pretty/Popular Older sister, the Single Mom Doing the Best She Can, etc. But there was still just enough to them that they DIDN'T feel stereotypical. It's a very strange sort of characterization I wish I could describe better. It does make me look forward to sequels, 'cause I guess this is a series. I want to know more about these characters, especially Nova. I'm a sucker for the brooding baby.
On the note of Nova, his "secret" motivations didn't feel so secret. I kind of saw them coming the moment he started talking to Alex in Lady's shop. So that's one area I wish Cordova had worked a little harder on. The scene where Alex learns what he's really after would have been much more heartbreaking than it already was.
Rishi was a conflicting character for me. I liked her. I also think Cordova wrote her WAY better than other writers who create characters like her have done in the past. She reminded me of one of my best friends from high school, which kind of makes me cringe, but it also made her relatable to me as a friend character. I also liked her relationship with Alex. It didn't feel forced at all or rubbed in my face, which I'm grateful for. I was worried this book would be like "LOOK AT THE BISEXUALS!" the same way the sites advertising it behave. Again, nothing against the content, just hate that advertising style.
My issue with Rishi was the way she took everything so naturally. She shows up in Los Lagos, meets flying bird people, and is just like, "Cool." I would have liked more fear from her, more confusion. It's supposed to be this brave, grand gesture that she followed Alex into the portal, but if it's no big deal to her then how grand was the gesture to her really? I liked her best when she started to show fear because that showed me how much she really cared for Alex, making me like their relationship all the more.
Despite my "complaints" with the book, it actually improved upon itself as the story went on. Things I had issues with were remedied in later chapters. I liked to see the writing style grow like that and it really gives me hope for the future of this series.
Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed this on and definitely recommend it, regardless of Bingo status.
Final thought: I just realized this is the last book I'll have checked out from the Salt Lake library. Kind of sad.