Bruja Born

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Labyrinth Lost. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Bruja Born was written by Zoraida Córdova and first published in 2018. It forms the second instalment of the Brooklyn Brujas series and is set eight months after the events of Labyrinth Lost (2016), as Lula and her family slowly recover from their ordeal in Los Lagos. Although this novel largely stands alone, I would still recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

Lula Mortiz is a shadow of her former self. Although her sister, Alex, saved her from having her soul destroyed by a terrible monster, she has returned to New York traumatised and scared. Her anxiety has caused her relationship with her long-term boyfriend, Maks, to become strained and he eventually breaks it off, leaving Lula nursing a broken heart.

Desperate to keep Maks, Lula tries to use her healing magic to repair the rift between them. Yet, seconds later, disaster strikes. Lula’s school bus is involved in a horrific crash and many of her friends are killed. Although Lula survives, she learns that Maks is in a coma and is not expected to ever recover. When the circle refuses to heal him, Lula knows she needs to take matters into her own hands. Alex, Rose and herself command incredible power between them. It has to be enough to save him.

What should be a simple spell quickly goes wrong. When the Lady de la Muerte arrives to take Maks’s soul, Lula tethers it to herself to save him. While this at first seems to fail, the next day all of the bodies disappear from the hospital morgue. Its not long after that the killings begin. Bodies are showing up mutilated all over New York and Lula somehow knows that they are connected. Now she must find a way to put things right and appease the goddess of death. If she doesn’t, it won’t be long before she draws the attention of those who hunt for bruja…

Before I begin, a word of warning. Bruja Born does contain a few themes that readers may find distressing. These include gore, coping with grief and violence against women. While I wouldn’t say that anything in this book was inappropriate for its target audience, you might want to give this one a miss if you’re sensitive to such things. You have been warned.

Bruja Born is a strong sequel to the excellent Labyrinth Lost and does a fantastic job of widening the already impressive scope of its world-building. While the previous book was largely set in Los Lagos, this one is set entirely in the real world. I was a little disappointed about this at first but I did like the way that it gave this book a very different feel.

While Labyrinth Lost was fantastical and whimsical, Bruja Born is a lot more grounded in reality. While we do still see a little of more of the bruja culture, which still has its roots in a number of different Latinx folklores, Córdova takes the time in this book to build the bigger picture. We learn this time that there are actually many different supernatural creatures living in New York, and how they are governed by strict laws set down between their council and an order of hunters. We also learn how they keep all of this secret from muggles, which was something that wasn’t entirely clear in Labyrinth Lost.

The story this time is told in first person by Lula, who was a secondary character in the previous instalment. Lula is quick to impress upon the reader that this book is not a love story. This turns out to be entirely true. Bruja Born is a lot more introspective than Labyrinth Lost and tackles a number of complex themes. While the previous book did touch upon the unpleasant inevitability of death, Bruja Born takes this further in its themes of grief and coping with the loss of a loved one. While it was slower in pace than Labyrinth Lost, I quickly found myself hooked. The plot of Bruja Born is highly unpredictable and contained a lot of twists and turns that I genuinely did not see coming.

However, there were some moments where I felt as though the story had lost its way a little. I’m not going to spoil these for you here but I will just say that there were a few points where things just seemed to happen for the sake of plot progression. A good example of this is the hunt of the Lady de la Muerte’s spear. This seemed as though it would be integral to the plot, yet there was never a sense of the girls actually trying to look for it. They just seemed to figure out where it was at the eleventh hour, with no explanation as to why they jumped on this conclusion or how it came to be there.

Yet the story does end very well. While there are still threads left open to tie into a third book, it did feel as though this stage of the story has come to a satisfying close. While the books in this series don’t quite stand alone, the two instalments so far have provided strong character arcs for Alex and Lula respectively. However, much like Labyrinth Lost the epilogue does still close on rather a cheap cliff-hanger. I really hope that this one ties into the next book, as the one at the end of Labyrinth Lost only vaguely connected to Bruja Born, which was somewhat of a disappointment.

The characterisation of the Mortiz sisters is still one of the strongest aspects of this series. While I loved Alex in Labyrinth Lost, I think I grew even more attached to Lula. Her grief felt very natural, and her reaction to the breakup was believable. Despite her powers, she felt like a very normal teenage girl; one for whom love was all consuming and so she would do anything her power to maintain it. Over the course of the story, Lula is given some incredibly strong character development as she learns to love herself and understand the importance of letting go.

As this is really Lula’s story, her sisters get a lot less time to shine. However, it really was nice to have the three of them working together at last as it strengthens their circle and shows the depth of their love for each other. While I was disappointed at the diminished role that Alex played in this book (especially as her girlfriend Rishi is glaringly absent until the final chapter), Rose does get some interesting development towards the end of the story. I’m very curious to see where Córdova intends to take this in the next instalment.

So, all in all, I was really impressed by Bruja Born. It had strong world-building, a greatly sympathetic protagonist and a plot that kept me hooked from start to finish. I really can’t wait to see where this series will go next.

Bruja Born can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Sobeks 2018 – Part 3 | Arkham Reviews

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