Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Córdova
Rating: (5 out of 5)
I was chosen by the Deos. Even gods make mistakes.
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 she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.
I first read Labyrinth Lost in May of last year. I finally got around to reading the sequel, but since I couldn’t remember much from the first book, it seemed like an opportune moment for a reread.
The main character Alex is a bisexual Latinx girl, and like most of the main cast she is repeatedly described as dark-skinned with unruly hair. It’s great representation, and it’s well-written, with an engaging plot and a relatable main character. Even though in the beginning Alex makes a couple of unsympathetic choices, she more than redeems herself in the course of the book.
According to my Goodreads review from last year, I docked half a star for what I then perceived as an unnecessary love triangle. I like to think that I’ve become (and still am becoming) a more nuanced reader, and I definitely had a more nuanced read on that this time around. There is an underlying possibility of a love triangle and it is clear in the text that Alex is attracted to Nova, but I feel now that more than anything it serves to establish Alex’s bisexuality rather than to create unnecessary tension. She’s very obviously in love with Rishi, her best friend, who is also a queer girl of colour. Their relationship is adorable and delightful, and it’s so gratifying when they end up together.
The most important bond in Labyrinth Lost however is between Alex and her family, her mother and her sisters Lula and Rose. Like every family, they have their conflicts, a lot of them based around their magical heritage and the absence of the girls’ father after his mysterious disappearance. There is some very realistic bickering among the three sisters. However, they are incredibly close and protective of each other, and would go to the ends of the world for each other — which Alex actually ends up doing. The prevalent themes in this first book of the series are accepting power and finding love, embedded in the context of family and Latinx magic traditions.
Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Córdova
Rating: (5 out of 5)
Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.
Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.
Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…
Bruja Born was an incredible read. This second book of the series is told from the point of view of Alex’s older sister, Lula, the stereotypical “pretty one.” She has the gift of healing, and even in the first book, her warmth and unconditional love for others shines through. I love Lula’s narrative voice even more than Alex’s.
At the beginning of the book, she is still healing from the trauma of being imprisoned in Los Lagos, and struggling with depression and her father’s unexpected reappearance in her family’s life. After she and her boyfriend almost die in an accident, she tries to save Maks by healing him and by calling on treacherous powers. She causes an outbreak of casimuertos, and ends up having to race against time and her weakening body to fix her mistake.
I’m usually a slow reader, but I inhaled this book in the span of two days. In Bruja Born, the author introduces some new players, such as the Hunters and the Thorne Hill Alliance. At first I felt like they were kind of ushered in, but it ended up being a neat expansion of world-building after the first book was mostly set in a different realm. I actually preferred the stronger urban fantasy vibes of the sequel.
Watching Lula grow and heal and learn to let go was a wonderful journey. I fell more in love with all three of the bruja sisters and their unique strengths with every page. Lula, Alex, and Rose are all brave and amazing in their own ways, and I love how inseparable they are. Bruja Born was one of my absolute favourite reads this year, and I legitimately cannot wait for the third book to come out, which will be about the youngest sister Rose and the mystery surrounding their father.