Zoraida Córdova’s latest book for young adults, Labyrinth Lost, brings a new perspective to the fantasy genre. Drawing on her Ecuadorian heritage, Córdova tells a story that is both culturally new yet hauntingly familiar.
Most of Alex Mortiz’s family members are brujas and brujos—women and men with magical abilities. They do not care for the term “witches” because their power comes from the Deos, the benevolent gods, not from the evil that the English word inspires. Alex, however, is frightened by the ferocity of her magic. She thinks it makes her do bad things. So as her Deathday arrives—a day of celebration and blessing—she is ready to refuse it and send it back to the Deos. When her cantos seems to backfire and she sends her entire family to Los Lagos, the realm of the dead, she must use her power to rescue them.
This is a coming-of-age story in all its particulars. Alex struggles with her feelings for a girl at school, for a handsome brujo and with who she wants to be in the world. As she and the brujo Nova confront obstacles on their trip across Los Lagos, the plot allows each difficult encounter to be as symbolic as necessary for her personal growth—without interfering with the adventure and suspense. Córdova’s prose is fluid and accessible, though readers may encounter some awkward passages.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a pre-K through eighth grade Catholic school.