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Fantasy Reviews: DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINA

 

TGIF! Work has been kicking my butt so I’m even more happy than usual that Friday is upon us.  I haven’t been reading much fantasy since the start of the pandemic, but I just couldn’t resist reading new fantasy releases from two of my favorite authors, Brigid Kemmerer and Zoraida Córdova.  I’ve loved everything I’ve read from Kemmerer, both her fantasy novels and her YA contemporary books, and I’m a big fan of Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas YA fantasy series.  I’m excited to share my thoughts on their latest with you today. 🙂

 

Fantasy Reviews:  DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINADefy the Night (Defy the Night, #1) Goodreads

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publication Date: September 14, 2021

Publisher:  Bloomsbury YA

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Brigid Kemmerer’s latest novel, Defy the Night, is the first installment in her brand new fantasy series of the same name.  The series is set in Kandala, a kingdom that has been ravaged by a deadly pandemic.  The only way to treat the sickness is with an elixir made from moonflower petals, but there’s only a limited supply of such petals and those regions of the kingdom who have them charge a premium for them, thus making it easy for the rich to hoard more elixir than they could ever possibly need and hard for poor folks to afford the elixir at all.  How can there be any hope of helping everyone survive with such an uneven distribution of resources?  Tessa Cade, an apprentice apothecary, wonders the same thing and decides to take matters into her own hands.  She and her partner, Wes, steal moonflower petals from anywhere they can, manufacture their own elixir, and sneak out in the dead of night to deliver it to poor families across the kingdom, under penalty of death if they are caught.

I really loved everything about this book, but I especially adored Tessa and this whole Robin Hood “rob from the rich, give to the poor” vibe she has going on.  Tessa is feisty, brilliant, and she just has the biggest heart.  All she wants to do is save everyone she can, and I had tremendous sympathy for her because she’s following in her parents’ footsteps and they were both killed for doing exactly what she’s doing. She’s also quite headstrong and sometimes acts rashly.  When Wes is captured by the royal guards on one of their runs, Tessa, heartbroken and alone, races off to the palace looking for revenge.  Little does she know, however, but her life is about to change forever.

Another character in the story I adored was Prince Corrick, who Tessa encounters when she enters the palace.  Corrick is the King’s Justice. His job is to dole out punishments to those who break the law, and he’s known by all to be brutal and ruthless.  Corrick is hard to like, at first, just based on his reputation alone.  But I grew to love him as soon as I realized there’s so much more to Corrick than meets the eye.  Corrick and his brother the King were forced to take on their roles at a very young age because their parents were murdered.  Corrick is determined to protect his brother at all costs, even if it means doling out the most horrid of punishments to discourage any future betrayals.  He hates what he does, however.  It tears him up inside and he desperately wants to be a different kind of person.  Could Tessa be the one to help him become who he wants to be?

I don’t want to give anything away about what happens when Tessa and Corrick encounter each other, but it’s a game changer for both and one heck of a ride for the reader when they unexpectedly join forces to take on those who pose a threat to the health and stability of the kingdom.  If you like a little romance in your fantasies, there’s definitely plenty of chemistry between Tessa and Corrick.  And if you like a little political intrigue, with a side of backstabbing and treachery, Kemmerer has you covered there too.  I enjoyed Defy the Night immensely and can’t wait to see what happens next!  4 STARS

 

Fantasy Reviews:  DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINAThe Inheritance of Orquídea Divina Goodreads

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Atria Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’ve enjoyed Zoraida Córdova’s YA novels for a few years now.  I love her style of storytelling, particularly her lush worldbuilding and unforgettable characters, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her adult debut, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina.  This book was everything I hoped it would be and more.

It’s a multi-generational family saga that centers on Orquidea Montoya. Orquidea is the matriarch of the family and she has always been a bit of an enigma to her children and grandchildren, especially the fact that she has refused to leave her home for any reason and thus has missed out on weddings, graduations, baptisms, etc.  When Orquidea realizes she is near the end of her life, she unexpectedly invites her entire family to her home for her funeral. She promises to give them each their inheritance and to finally shed some light on why she has lived her life the way she has. The family obeys her wishes, but instead of getting the answers they seek, Orquidea transforms right before their eyes, her life ending in a most unexpected and magical way, and they are left with even more questions than they had before.

This is a hard story to review because I think it really does make the reading experience more special to go in blindly, but I do want to mention a few elements that I really enjoyed that I can talk about without spoiling anything.  The first thing I loved was the use of the dual timeline.  In one timeline, we follow Orquidea’s descendants through several years and see how the gifts she bestowed upon them have improved their lives. That is, until they all start to sense danger and realize they are being targeted and travel to Ecuador where Orquidea once lived, looking for answers. The second timeline, which alternates with the first, follows Orquidea through her life and slowly reveals the secrets she was hiding for most of her life.  I loved how the author intricately wove the details of these two timelines together and it was most satisfying, although heartbreaking, when the two timelines meet and everything is revealed.

I loved the focus on family, the vivid descriptions of Ecuador, the use of South American folklore, and I also really enjoyed the way the author used magical realism in the story.  Magical realism seems to be one of those storytelling elements that people either love or hate, but Córdova uses it effectively and beautifully here to add to the sense of mystery surrounding Orquidea, very reminiscent of the way Alice Hoffman, one of my favorite authors, weaves it into some of her stories.

If you enjoy intricately-plotted stories that feature family, love, magic, danger, long-held secrets and curses, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina is sure to captivate you.  4 STARS

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Book Review:  Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaLabyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1) by Zoraida Córdova
four-stars
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on September 6th 2016
Pages: 324
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:  Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

MY REVIEW

Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost is the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas series and it follows sixteen year old Alex, who is just trying to live her life as an average teen in Brooklyn, New York.  Alex, however, is anything but average.  She comes from a long line of magical brujas and brujos, which are witches, so everyone in her family is eagerly anticipating the moment when her magical powers finally awaken.  The problem is that Alex doesn’t want her powers. Her family doesn’t realize it, but Alex’s magic has long since awoken and she thinks she accidentally caused something bad to happen with it since she couldn’t control it.  Because of that, she wants to parts of this magic and so has hidden her magic from others  for as long as she could.

Eventually, however, her family finds out and they throw her the traditional Deathday celebration. This celebration is a family blessing of sorts, including both living family members as well as the spirits of those who have died, which ensures every bruja and brujo’s magic works as it should.  As they are preparing for the Deathday celebration, Alex meets a new friend, Nova.  She is immediately drawn to Nova, although she’s not sure she trusts him because he acts so mysterious.  She confides in him that she doesn’t want her powers and he suggests a spell she can use to eradicate them during the Deathday ceremony.  Alex attempts the spell during the ceremony and, much to her horror, it backfires and banishes her entire family to another realm, an in-between world of sorts, called Los Lagos.  The rest of the book focuses on Alex’s quest to travel to this other world and to right her wrong and save her family.

LIKES

There were so many things I loved about this story that it would take me all day to list them, but here are some standouts for me.

Unique WorldbuildingLabyrinth Lost feels like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Orpheus’ journey to the underworld to save Eurydice, and then on top of that, it is also filled with a rich history of Spanish and Latin American legends.  Córdova uses this unique combination of ingredients to create one of the most incredibly original worlds I’ve encountered since I started reading fantasy novels.  It’s equal parts creepy and magical and you can’t even begin to guess from one moment to the next what Alex will face on her journey across Los Lagos.  There’s a portal to the other world that must be traveled through, then there’s a ferry that must be taken across a river of souls where souls actually try to grab at the ferry’s passengers, not to mention fierce monsters that are prowling around just waiting to attack, and there’s even a random a tea party, complete with little toad stool chairs, in progress.  I really flew through these pages because I just couldn’t wait to see what Alex would encounter next.

DiversityLabyrinth Lost scores high marks in diversity. In addition to use of Latin folklore, the main character is a person of color and she is also bisexual.  (For those who are fans of love triangles, there’s one in this book and it’s f/f/m).

Family Relationships – I loved how Labyrinth Lost had such a huge focus on family and how important one’s family is.  Even though their relationships tend to be complicated, as most families are, Alex is so close to both her mom and her two sisters and it kills her to think they are suffering because of what she did.  She is willing to risk everything, including her own life, to do whatever she needs to do to free them from Los Lagos.

Coming of Age Story – I love reading journeys of self-discovery and Alex’s journey definitely fits the bill.  When the novel first opened, I honestly didn’t even really like Alex that much. She came across as very selfish and spoiled, and so in many ways, she was my least favorite character. That said, however, she shows such tremendous growth as she devotes herself to saving her family and learns to embrace her magic and all it entails along the way.  By the end of the novel, I ended up loving Alex.

DISLIKES

I won’t really call this a dislike because it’s more “Man, I really wish there was more of this” and that involves Alex’s friend and eventual love interest, Rishi.  Rishi is so devoted to Alex that when she sees this random open portal in Alex’s backyard and can’t find Alex anywhere, she dives into the portal without hesitation because she wants to make sure Alex is okay.  Beyond the fact that she’s totally devoted to Alex, however, we don’t really learn that much about her.  I loved the little glimpses of her personality that we did get and really wanted more.  I’m glad this is just the first in the series so there’s hope for more about Rishi.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Labyrinth Lost is such a unique and memorable read. I loved learning about the Latin folklore and look forward to exploring it further when the next book in the Brooklyn Brujas series is released.

RATING:  4 STARS

four-stars

About Zoraida Córdova

Zoraida Córdova is the author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. She is a New Yorker at heart and is currently working on her next novel. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro.