Any Alice in Wonderland fans who like the concept of retellings, but still want something wholly unique? “Labyrinth Lost” is that in spades! Meet Alex, a girl who believes magic is a curse and will do anything to avoid her Deathday and deny the magic in her blood. And, because this is a YA fantasy after all, her desire backfires when she takes steps to strip her magic away and instead banishes her family to a place of nightmares; where bruja’s and brujo’s are sent to be punished. Desperate to save her family, Alex ventures to Los Lagos to free them, meeting strange, nightmarish creatures, and those disguised only to appear like nightmares, on the journey. And, again because it’s YA, learning about herself, her magic, and the idea of family being home all at once. While this book has some mixed reviews, I have to say, I really, really enjoyed Cordova’s interpretation of witches, magic, and the ceremonies and gods that inhabit this world.
I didn’t go into this read thinking it was a retelling or inspired by Alice in Wonderland, like at all. I just wanted to read something diverse in its character representation. Which this book has and it’s wonderful, by the way, both with cultures, POC main characters, and bisexual rep that I really enjoyed. It wasn’t until I read some of the praise for the book on my copy that I realized where some of the source material came from, and the author does such a good job of keeping those Wonderland elements subtle, for the most part. But once I started noticing some of the parallels, the rest became easier to see, which I really liked honestly! It was like a nice little Easter Egg.
Everything about this story though has this wonderful dark and creepy vibe, while still being utterly magical, vibrant, and foreboding all at once. This book has the kind of vibes I love in stories, and have been missing in my YA fantasy (which is mainly on me and not the genre as a whole). And while it is also an urban fantasy, I liked that the vast majority of the book wasn’t spent in a world that we’re familiar with, spending the majority of the time in Los Lagos instead. In fact, there’s only a few things about this book that started to bother me, but were thankfully short lived enough not to dampen my enjoyment that much: the presence of a “casual” love triangle, and some of the practices of the bruja’s pull heavily from Santeria where animal sacrifices take place. The scene where this happens is short and has a purpose (and isn’t against a dog or cat if that helps), but I did find it a bit sad none the less.
All in all, this book was exactly what I needed this month, and I found it to be a truly refreshing young adult, urban fantasy with complex characters, and a beautiful message about family and finding your own way. This story was fast paced and full of magic, but never to the point where I felt like I couldn’t keep up or make sense of the fantastic images the author was weaving. I could not put this book down for the last 20% of it either, and was rooting so hard for Alex I could barely sit still. I also really appreciate that this book is it’s own standalone adventure, with the other books in the series focusing on different characters. I’ve had this book on my shelves for an embarrassingly long time (to the point where my version of the cover is no longer available), and will forever kick myself for not reading it sooner as it ended up being an easy 5 star read for me!
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!