I’m very happy to be bringing you a review for one of my most anticipated books! If there is anything I ask the universe for, it is for more Latinx Fantasy books and lately the universe has been saying “Okay, Rendz. Here you go!”
And life just gets 10x better whenever I totally love these books!
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing me a digital ARC via Netgalley!*
Lobizona by Romina Garber
Pub Date: Aug 4th, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Some people ARE illegal.
Lobizonas do NOT exist.
Both of these statements are false.
Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.
Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.
Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.
As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.
I really enjoyed Manu’s character. She was a girl unknown to the world around her being confined to the tiny apartment she shares with her mom and adoptive grandmother. I liked how honest she was about her situation, and that even though it looked dour she had hope it would change. I also liked that she took charge of her situation when she finally realized she was tired of being told what to do. And I loved that she had the strength to listen to her own thoughts when there were so many other telling her what she should do. In the end she made decisions for herself. Were they all great decisions, no, but she made them and stuck to them which was pretty admirable!
I also loved her struggle with finding ways to belong. She finds herself caught in two worlds, caught in two cultures and struggling to find her place in both! It is a theme that I think will resonate with lots of readers (although in different ways). Manu is constantly confronted with invisible barriers that prevent her from making those connections she wants and finding her place in her worlds! It was kind of sad but at the same time really interesting to read about.
Other characters…first of all the mom, despite her short appearance, is such a great character! The same goes for Perla, the grandmother! I have a big feeling that there is more to their stories than giving in this one novel (maybe we’ll get more in book 2!) Then there is this great cast of friends that I just !!!!!!!! They were such a great bunch together! From Cata’s brusqueness to Saysa’s gentleness and then the very colourful personalities of all the boys! Special shout out to Pablo for just being generally the best of them.
The Septimus world is pretty freaking magical! First of all we have a magic school where witches and werewolves study their powers and rise in the ranks of the pack-society. I loved that the school was centered around a magical tree that was an active member of the community and actually connected different worlds together! This book is chock full of Argentinian myth and folklore! I’ve heard of the myth of Lobizones before and this book was a deep dive into it while also giving it a twist! Then there is an incredible magic system tied to the elements that just adds a whole other level to the playing field! Not to mention magical eyes that carry a uniqueness to each Septimus!!!! The actual world of Lunaris also brings in so many more creatures and magic and danger! I loved every moment we spent exploring it!
While there wasn’t much action in the plot per se, unless we are talking about the Septibol matches!, this book had a lot of suspense. We were on constant edge because the risk of discovery is real and the consequences are HUGE! There were lots of chapter cliffhangers that kept up the pace of the read and never truly left us with a dull moment. Up to the 60% mark I kind of knew what would go down, but beyond that it was new territory and we are given REVELATIONS!!!!!! There were betrayals and secrets and so much more that kept me on the edge of my seat!w
This book was full of great discussions around misogyny, gender identity, menstruation, immigration and the desire to belong. The world of Septimus is so attached to the binary of male and female and I like how Garber tackled the limits of this rigid structure. I liked that we got to see different identities pop up and defy the norms forced upon the population. I loved that we had major girl power fighting against a system that constantly kept them back from reaching for the stars! I also loved how Manu’s ties to the world of Lunaris are also tied to her menstrual cycle and the role it plays! (You just never see that in fantasy!) And of course immigration is a huge theme in this novel and what it means to label people as “illegal” and be undocumented. It was honest, heartfelt and very much a reflection of how people are treated like less than human for wanting safety and refuge. It was woven so perfectly into the novel and while I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say this ***be warned here*** the status of illegality is not something she only contends with in the US, but in the Septimus world too. ***end of a possible-not really spoiler***
The romance between the main characters was so obvious, there wasn’t any real yearning. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I thought Tiago had no personality. It was also very insta-lovely that I just wasn’t really into. And I just didn’t really like him. The only things I got from him were that he was indecisive, had a hero-complex and literally everyone thought he was great…except for me. And the romance took centre stage in so many places I was just over it.
I didn’t really care for any of the Harry Potter references, but they are there for a reason understandably. But if I’m being honest, the book could have done perfectly fine with just the other literary influences.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book very much! It was a great first installment in what I think will be a duology! The world was magical, the characters–especially Manu–were brilliant. It’s magical and whimsical and suspenseful! It’s an adventure in identity and realizing that you don’t need to change to fit the world, but that the world has to change to fit you!
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Recommend: Absolutely! For those who have always wanted more witches and werewolves, take a shot at these brujas and lobizones!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading this? Would you rather be a werewolf or witch?
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