Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Cordova
Summary: Alex is a bruja, a witch. She doesn't want to be, but her magical gifts are passed down from her entire family, and the whole family is likewise looking forward to her deathday, the ceremony that will bring her into her full power as a bruja. So she knows that when she sabotages the ceremony in hopes of getting rid of her powers forever, people aren't going to be happy.
She didn't expect her entire family, living and dead, to get sucked into Los Lagos, the otherworld of powerful magic, strange creatures, and unfathomable rules. Now with the help of mysterious Nova, she's the only one who can get them back, using the very powers she was trying to escape.
With a fascinating mythology drawing on multiple Latin American traditions and beliefs, this is a whole new kind of fantasy.
First Impressions: The premise and the setting were amazing, the characterization not so much. But I did love some things about this.
Later On: I loved this world. I loved the complexity of her family dynamics, and the pressures on her from all sides to be something she's not particularly ready for. I loved the dangerous and mysterious world of Los Lagos, with the classic mythical trope of rules that our heroes don't know, but must abide by or pay the price.
I particularly loved that she is attracted to both bad-boy Nova and her BFF Rishi. While her own bisexuality seemed to be news to her, it was no big thing within the larger arc of the story.
My beef with the characterization is that everyone was pretty static and flat. While Alex was our main character, she was more of a conduit to narrate what was happening to her. Still, the world and the conflicts set up mean that I'll be back for the rest of the series.
More: Latinos in Kidlit
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
An essay from the author, talking about the difficulties of writing a story that reflects her own background in fantasy, over at Diversity in YA