Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

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Title: Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2)
Author:  Zoraida Córdova
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Topics: Family, Sisterhood, Magic
Triggers: Some gore and violence
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publishing Year: 2018
Pages: 336 pages
Format Read: Hardcover
My Rating: 4/5
Minor spoilers for Labyrinth Lost

The second instalment in the Brooklyn Brujas series took everything I loved from the first book and took it two steps further and darker. This time we follow Lula, the eldest of the Mortiz sisters, as the family wrestles with the traumatic experiences of the first book. Lula in particular, who has always been the “beautiful sister” is dealing with the literal and figurative scares of these events.

Summary: 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... 

This book feels darker and grittier that Labyrinth Lost, perhaps because the events of Bruja Born do not play out in an alternative wonderland limbo this time around but rather in the very real streets of Brooklyn where a horde of almost dead zombie-like figures swarm the city. While the first book feels like a YA version of Dante’s Inferno, this feels like an Urban Fantasy take on Faust’s journey. It is an emotionally charged, good-intentions-gone wrong story where the emphasis is place more on Lula’s growth as a character than on an action packed plot, although there is plenty of action if you are looking for that too. Throw in some appearances by the mysterious Deos, some pretty kick-ass elemental magic and you have an all-around awesome book.

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What surprised me in the best possible way was that the raw and violent moments, and there are quite a few, are counter-balanced by the emotionally trials that Lula undergoes. At the beginning, she is depressed and scared. Her self-esteem has plummeted which has affected her healing magic. Lula’s emotional struggle to keep it together feel real and are some of the best depictions of high-functioning depression I have seen in fiction. In her hurt, she makes ill-advised mistakes and pays for the consequences. At the end of it all, Lula is not her old self. Throughout the book she comes to terms with the fact that she can’t go back and ‘fix’ herself into who she was before, but she can recreate herself into a new Lula with scars and all. It is an emotional growth process that few authors in Urban Fantasy attempt and if they do, that pull it off so well.

In true Cordova style though, there are some genuinely funny and heartfelt moments sprinkled in among the doom and gloom. The introduction of some great new secondary characters including a vampire and a demon hunter, lighten the tension. There are also some fun New York City moments sprinkled in that will make any New Yorker chuckle. But by far the thing that I enjoyed the most is the relationship between the Mortiz sisters which is heavily featured in this books compared to the first one. Cordova nails the dynamic between the three Bruja sisters. They annoy each other, hurt each other, but through it all they love each other and have each other’s back reminding us that although the Brooklyn Brujas features monsters and magic aplenty, it is family and sisterhood that make up the heart of this series. 

In Bruja Born, Cordova has taken the whimsical and magical elements from her first book and polished them into a darker and more sophisticated novel. I enjoyed the first book but I loved this one. I cannot wait to see what Cordova gives us in the next one!

For an event recap of the Belles and Brujas event in NYC click here. 

Read if you like:

NYC Urban Fantasy
The TV show Charmed
Zombies