Kate’s Review: “Bruja Born”

33918887Book: “Bruja Born” by Zoraida Córdova

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Fire, June 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Review: I first want to say a special thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC to this book!

Awhile back I read the book “Labyrinth Lost” by Zoraida Córdova, a fantasy novel that took some influence from “Alice In Wonderland”. I remember liking the characters in it for the most part (well, mostly Alex, our teen witch protagonist), but having a harder time with the fantasy world setting that she found herself in. Look, I have lots of opinions about “Alice in Wonderland,” as you guys know, and that one didn’t really live up to my very high expectations. But I liked Alex and her family enough that I told myself I’d continue in the series, so when I saw that “Bruja Born” was on the way I requested a copy from NetGalley, thinking I had little to lose. But I have great news. If “Labyrinth Lost” has similarities to “Alice in Wonderland,” “Bruja Born” also has a book to which it has similar themes and concepts. And that book is “Pet Sematary”.

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Words that we should all take to heart. Especially if we live on cursed soil in Maine. (source)

The whimsical and dreamy fantasy setting from the first book has gone out the window, and Córdova has taken us straight into dark fantasy/horror for the second book of her “Brooklyn Brujas” series. And this is where, for me, the series has spread it wings and flown high, because THIS is the kind of book I was waiting for. This time, our main character is Lula, Alex’s older sister who was one of those who was in need of rescue in book one. Her emotional and physical scars from her time in Los Lagos have really weighed her down, and she has changed from popular and bubbly extrovert to sullen and bitter killjoy. I was really happy to see that we got to focus on her this time, as while I liked Alex I liked having a new character to explore. And Lula was so flawed and complex, more so than Alex, and getting to know her (as well as Rose, their youngest sister) made this book all the more rich. In fact, this book gave us a better grasp on all of the family members, and world building exploded and really sucked me in. Lula’s relationships, be it with her sisters or her mother or Maks as he becomes the living dead due to a spell that was cast, felt deeper and more rewarding this time around. I also really have to give Córdova props because while I found Lula to be really hard to take at times, I TOTALLY understood the choices that she made and believed every single one of them. And her romance with Maks is so, so emotional and tragic, as you know that it is doomed once he becomes more and more in tune with the undead side of him. But his emotions and feelings and memories are still there, and we have to slowly watch him fall away, and watch Lula potentially lose him all over again. Man was it painful and an emotional rollercoaster, and I, of course, was living for all the agony it was causing me.

The stakes have grown exponentially in this one as well. While those in danger in “Labyrinth Lost” was limited to the Mortiz family alone (which are high stakes for them, of course), the threat of an undead horde threatens all of New York City after the Mortiz Sister’s healing/resurrection spell goes terribly wrong. We get to see how the magical systems within the book not only affect the characters, but how they could potentially affect the world that they live in. There was a lot of loss in this book, loss that actually caught me off guard. This book goes dark, far darker than “Labyrinth Lost”, but I think that it is richer for it. Córdova also brings in concepts from her other stories outside of the “Brooklyn Brujas”, and fits them into this world and the Bruja culture seamlessly. When we find out that this world is not limited to witches, Córdova opens up a world of possibilities that I cannot wait to see her explore as the series goes on. This series has officially gone from ‘yeah, I guess I will go on with it’ to ‘OKAY SERIOUSLY WHEN DOES THE NEXT ONE COME OUT?!’, and now looking at both “Labyrinth Lost” and “Bruja Born” as two parts to the same whole, I’ve gained more appreciation for the former. The stories are very complementary, and the next one, almost assuredly following the youngest sister Rose, can only strengthen it more.

If you like teen horror and an emotional chaser to your terror, “Bruja Born” is definitely a book that you need to pick up. You do need to read “Labyrinth Lost” before going into this story, but given that I have a feeling that the “Brooklyn Brujas” series is going to be VERY strong overall, you’ll be glad that you did. And now seriously, when does the next one come out?

Rating 9: A solid dark fantasy that borders towards horror, “Bruja Born” brings the Mortiz Family into their own and expands into complex and deeply satisfying world building and magical systems.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Bruja Born” is included on the Goodreads lists “Latinx MG/YA Speculative Fiction”, and “#OwnVoices Novels of 2018”.

Find “Bruja Born” at your library using WorldCat!

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