April 2023

Lucha of the Night Forest

By Tehlor Kay Mejia
Review by
This powerful allegorical fantasy embeds questions of justice and the price of activism within a fresh, fast-paced story of magic and sisterhood.
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Lucha Moya is a fighter. Born and raised in Robado, on a lifeless strip of land known to its inhabitants as the Scar, Lucha has grappled her way through life alongside her community. Robado is surrounded on all sides by a strange and monstrous forest, and grotesque, skeletal creatures stalk along its edges, leaving the people who live there isolated from the rest of an unknown world. 

Haunted by legends of a demonic presence known as El Sediento, Robado lives under the violent thumb of Los Ricos, who control access to a powerful drug called olvida, which makes users forget their troubles. Lucha’s mother has been losing increasing amounts of time to the drug while Lucha struggles to support herself and her younger sister, Lis.

When Lucha’s mother fails to return from her latest bender, Lucha and Lis are evicted from their home and their precarious existence becomes even more fraught. Amid this desperate situation, Lucha discovers a power she didn’t know she possessed and strikes a dark bargain that will change the path of Robado—and the wider world—forever. 

Acclaimed YA and middle grade author Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Lucha of the Night Forest is a powerful allegorical fantasy novel. Embedded in its story of magic and sisterhood are important questions about addiction, justice and the price of activism. The Scar mirrors real neighborhoods where infrastructure is failing, food deserts are growing and crime is too often the only way to survive. In a place where nothing is nurtured, how can anything grow? Robadan tales of El Sediento and a long-lost forest goddess echo these contradictions, as one figure brings rot and decay while the other promises verdant life. Lucha, too, learns harsh truths about who, in her world, hopes for change and who must bear the brunt of the pain and sacrifice required to make that change happen.

Lucha of the Night Forest is a multilayered novel that will appeal to fantasy readers and young activists alike. Seasoned genre fans will enjoy its fast-paced storytelling as well as its fresh take on nature-based magic within a vivid setting filled with glowing mushrooms and otherworldly forests. A sweet queer romance adds another appealing level to the narrative. But it’s Mejia’s clever and compelling incorporation of familiar social justice themes that make this such an impactful, enduring read.

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Lucha of the Night Forest

Lucha of the Night Forest

By Tehlor Kay Mejia
Make Me a World
ISBN 9780593378366

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