A Whimsical Tale of Werewolves and Witches (TBR Round 2, Part One)
WHAT IS TBR (TAILORED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS)?/HOW I FOUND IT
I was introduced to this service by one of my favorite Youtubers Kayla from BooksandLala. Essentially, you fill out a survey about your favorite books and what you like/look for in books, etc. They then match you with a bibliologist (mine this time was Aurora) who recommends you three or four books to read.
I will be in-depth reviewing the books I was recommended on this round with Lobizona being the first. I will also link my first review of the service at the bottom. I will also link the service (I have no affiliation with them and don't profit from this even if you yourself sign up for the service. I am just a paying customer like everyone else).
WHAT IS LOBIZONA?
Lobizona is a YA fantasy about an undocumented Argentine immigrant, Manuela 'Manu' who discovers that she is part of a secret society of elemental witches and werewolves. After fleeing from ICE, she attends magic school where she learns more about her heritage and her powers.
Manu is a character I had a lot of sympathy for given her circumstances. She was impulsive but that's because she's free to make her own choices for the first time in her life. In recent times I've found I can be more forgiving of character traits I don't necessarily like if they are warranted by the character's backstory. I grew attached to her throughout the story and found myself happy for her when she made friends. She reminded me somewhat of Tarisai from Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko.
There are quite a few other characters, but the most notable among them are Manu's roommate Catalina 'Cata', their friend Saysa, and Santiago 'Tiago' who is Manu's first crush. Manu and Tiago had good chemistry together, but it was made semi-awkward by the fact that Tiago and Cata were (sort of) together. Saysa was my favorite as she was a sweetheart and that friend that all of us want. Cata was your typical mean girl who is the way she is because of family troubles. She did gain more depth as the story progressed but she was my least favorite of the friend group as she felt the least original.
I really love solid friend groups in books because they showcase relationships other than the all too common romance and they give the protagonist support. They give this warm fuzzy feeling to otherwise heavy books, and this friend group was done well. They were believable as companions.
The novel is told from the first person perspective of Manu. I had mixed feelings about the writing itself. I liked the directions Garber took her story and the symmetry between Manu's mundane and magical lives. The novel incorporates a lot of Spanish followed by the English translations. This to me is a fun way for someone who is trying to learn the language to get their feet wet, especially since some people learn best when they are meshing together whatever they want to learn with something they enjoy.
The thing I didn't like was the amount of plot armor Manu had. It frustrated me how she needed to remain hidden in order to be safe and yet she was the least subtle person. There were so many times she should have been found out but wasn't because the plot didn't call for it. This didn't ruin the story for me, but has a writer myself it's not something I can overlook.
Garber does a flawless job with pacing the novel. It is sectioned off into 4 'phases' (like a moon, get it?) that each felt distinct from one another. She also did a good job of incorporating relevant topics into the novel including immigration and sexism and homophobia. I am a big supporter of YA authors addressing difficult topics in their novels because these can be mind openers and conversation starts.
The world of this novel is based on Argentine mythology. In this world there are a species known as Septimus where the girls are born as brujas or witches who have elemental magic and the boys are lobizones or werewolves. Men and women have very distinct roles within their society and as children they attend school to learn how to use their powers. If you like books about magical schools then this book is for you.
I've been wanting to explore more Latinx fantasy and happen to love werewolves so it was a perfect mix for me personally. The world is very whimsical and mystical. I preferred when Garber was describing Manu organically discovering the magical world for the first time verses when she has it more clinically explained to her.
I'd argue this novel is a hybrid of high and urban fantasy. It is urban fantasy because it largely takes place in our world only with mythological creatures. However, it has high fantasy aspects in that there is an alternate dimension the Septimus originate from.
FINAL THOUGHTS/WAS THIS A SUCCESSFUL RECOMMENDATION? Given that I listed YA fantasy as my favorite genre and explicitly said I preferred own voices this recommendation made sense. Additionally, I praised the first Latinx fantasy they recommended me (Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera). I would consider this a successful recommendation because not only did it take into consideration all my requests but I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. From the magic school that featured a library in a tree to the dynamics between the friends and the social commentary, this novel feels tailored made for me.
FINAL RATING: 4 ⭐️
My First Review of the Service: https://www.haleysbookhaven.com/post/i-used-the-same-book-recommendation-service-as-my-favorite-youtuber-tbr-round-1
BooksandLala's First Video on the Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUN1Zx2N86M&t=1094s
BooksandLala's Second Video on the Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUeIHULoMQ8&t=35s
The Service (TBR): https://mytbr.co/dashboard/tbr-profile/
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