Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???). Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically. They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree. RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance. And maybe both.
In October, Andrea, Faythe, and Pam all read Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova.
Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.
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 markings 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…
The Quick Reactions:
|Pam:For being an awesome hero(ine)’s quest with a brown girl and awesome world-building and romance and also lots of Dante references.
Andrea: I love the world building. But I also love how imperfect of a heroine Alex is.
|Faythe: I love the world building and some fun and fierce Latinx hero.
Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):
Faythe: I will admit I was having callbacks to other “she’s the chosen one and the only one to save her family!!” tropes.
Pam: Yes, I was definitely thinking that, but I like how it’s at least subverted by Alex herself and how she still tries to save her family even after she loses her power.
Faythe: Yes. The end totally saved the book for me.
Drea: UGH, that ending! I was like NO YOU CANNOT END IT THERE!!
Pam: I knowwww! I ran over to Goodreads and double-checked that it was a series. Whew.
Drea: Me, too! I was like this cannot be a stand alone!
Pam: My one issue was with how easily Rishi made it into Los Lagos. Like, “oooh, here’s a portal, jump in and get saved by bird-creatures!” That was a bit too convenient.
Faythe: Yeah. That was my least favorite thing. It was forced to me.
Drea: I’m torn on how I feel about that because yes it was a bit forced, but loved the friends loyalty? We don’t see that enough in YA books anymore.
Faythe: But it was romantic love and not friends loyalty. I wish there was little to no romance in this? We can get to that later, if at all.
Pam: Mmm, I felt like Rishi and Alex were friends before they really fell in love. It actually reminded me a lot of the relationship in The Scorpion Rules. I am actually really surprised because I didn’t mind the romance??? Which is very weird for me. It wasn’t overpowering and at least when it came to Nova, I think Alex was more infatuated than anything.
Drea: I agree. I actually felt like the romance was barely there., I would argue it was friend loyalty more than romance. They hadn’t admitted anything and I do think their crushes started as friendship.I do really think Rishi and Alex are super cute together. I also liked that her being bisexual was no big deal. And I mean, it’s so nice to see a Latina bisexual!
Faythe: Yes, I loved that her sexual preference was no big deal with her family.
Drea: And just a no big deal in general! Even Alex doesn’t seem to really internalize it beyond—Is this more than friendship??
Faythe: I do love that Nova was nbd about the bisexuality of Alejandra. No guy reaction there.
Pam: Right! And so was Alex’s mom.
Drea: YES, just to everyone it was like OH OKAY, well is this what you want?
Faythe: And they were, “cool.”
Drea: Yup, which is honestly why I think the romance/sexuality is being rante about so much. You just don’t get that. There was no long internalizing it. Just, YES I DO LOVE HER….BOOM done.
Faythe: Can I just say how fantastic it was to read a book with a BUNCH of Spanish words and phrases and they are NOT italicized?
Drea: Mmmhmm, I loved this Latinx world.
Pam: Agreed–the author definitely put so much care into the world and beliefs. I loved how she made the family members so real even though we actually don’t “know” them for very long. Like when Alex talks to her great-grandmother and she keeps whacking her with a cane. And the food and the love.
Drea: But I agree on the family members being so rich and well rounded. They were barely on the page when it comes down to it, but you still felt like you knew them
Faythe: You could really feel the love and respect the characters have for their family and ancestors.
Drea: Yes! And even though Alex wanted to throw it all away, she still loved and respected them.
Faythe: And I loved the part when Alex talk about ALL the places her family came from. It’s messy and realistic.
Pam: Yep! I think so many people in this country think “oh, you speak Spanish? You must be from Mexico. Your whole family must be from Mexico” but that’s just one piece of the whole.
Faythe: And all those places have their very own beliefs too. It made for a richer world. There was even a phrase I didn’t understand and couldn’t translate. Different places different phrases.
Pam: I loved how so much of it was a twist on Inferno (seriously, I could just natter on about this for AGES), and how the places in Los Lagos corresponded to Dante’s journey. I tweeted Zoraida and she said when she drafted the book, the outline was similar because Alex is going through her own personal hell of accidentally banishing her family. I was like “OK, Nova is sexy Virgil. Rishi is Beatrice. There’s the ferryman and the “selva oscura,” except here it’s the Selva of Ashes.” Ugh so good.
Drea: I’m very interested to see where the series goes. Obviously, the dad is going to be a huge part of the next one, so I’m hoping we still get to see how family ties it. Although, I feel like it may be a different perspective?
Faythe: I can’t wait to read/hear the dad’s journey and why he left.
Drea: I’m assuming he has some type of magical amnesia…so will we even get to learn about it!
Pam: I am also wondering about why the cat being possessed freaked her dad out so much. Or WAS THERE MORE????
Drea: And I’m not sure if he freaked out because of the possession or because of what Alex did. I think he knew she was an enchantrix
Faythe: I’m sure the freak out is a sign of some sort. Something about that particular animal.
Pam: Ooooo I like that! In Anglo lore, aren’t cats usually a witch’s familiar? IDK what the relationship would be in Latin culture?
Faythe: Uh, Osculum infame mentions the devil, kissing, and cats. Also, how is the family supporting themselves now that they are curing people in the house? Are they charging?
Drea: I assumed either charging or “donations”
Pam: That’s what I guessed.
Faythe: And I have a million questions about Nova and her dad. Did he always know where he was? How far away was he?
Drea: I don’t think he did? I think that’s why he disappeared for so long? Or maybe knew of him, but not where he was? Who knows what he learned from the Devourer
Pam: My first guess was that he was also trapped in Los Lagos, and since Nova can create portals, he went and … got him? Not the best hypothesis, I know.
Drea: I assume all that…or at least some of it…will come out in book 2, which I seriously cannot wait for!