“When we were children, they would scare us to sleep with stories of maloscuros under the bed. But we aren’t like normal families. Our monsters are real. Sometimes we are the monsters.”
Alejandra Mortiz is a powerful bruja, or she would be if she hadn’t been supressing her power ever since her father’s disappearance several years earlier. But when events cause her to lose control, her power is revealed to her family, and generations of brujas and brujos begin planning her Deathday. There she will receive the blessing of her family, living and dead, and her power will be cemented. But Alex doesn’t want to be a bruja. She sees the price her mother and sisters pay for their powers, and wants no part of it. But what if giving up her power comes with a price even greater than using it?
Alex’s story begins in Brooklyn, where she lives with her mother, her older sister, Lula, and her younger sister, Rose. Her mother and Lula are healers, and Rose is a psychic. Their father has been missing for several years, disappearing shortly after their cat, Miluna, was possessed by a demon, and attacked Alex. Alex is a generally a bit of an outsider; she doesn’t fit in well with her family, because she rejects their magic, and at school most people find her a bit odd, save for her best friend, Rishi. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from the family’s Book of Cantos, helping to establish the tradition she has grown up within but failed to embrace.
I picked up this book for the Diverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club, knowing little about it except that it was about brujas in Brooklyn. If I had read the description more closely, I would have known that it was not an urban fantasy. When Alex’s canto to denounce her power backfires, her entire family is pulled into the in-between realm of Los Lagos and trapped there. Los Lagos was created by the Deos, but it has been taken over by a creature called the Devourer, who has slowly been sucking all life out of the realm. The remainder of the book consists of Alex’s journey to save her family. While Los Lagos was an interesting setting, I nevertheless hope that future installments in the series will spend more time in our world.
The main drawback of Labyrinth Lost for me was a somewhat plodding plot arch through Los Lagos, where Alex, Rishi, and Nova have to face a series of challenges in order to get across the realm to where the Mortiz family is being held captive by the Devourer. I was engaged by the characters and the mythos that Cordova was building, but tended to lose interest in the obstacles that they faced. I was much more interested in the dynamic between the characters. While Alex’s reluctant attraction to Nova is evident immediately, the other half of the book’s love triangle develops a little bit more slowly. Whereas the problem with Nova is that while she is attracted to him, she doesn’t trust him, on the other hand Alex does not yet seem to be aware of her own bisexuality, so it takes her a while to realize her feelings for what they are.
With promising characters and a fascinating mythos, I will be interested to see how the Brooklyn Brujas series continues to develop.