While I do read more than my fair share of fairy tales, folk tales and myths & fables, I normally don’t read too many books with werewolves and witches and other such fantastical creatures. I can only remember the Twilight series and the Harry Potter series; maybe one or two of the Percy Jackson books. Which is why I am totally glad that I picked this book – Lobizona – on a random whim (maybe it was the cover or the synopsis)!!
Just when I finished reading it a few months ago and was starting to write a dazzling book review, I was invited to join the blog tour. So I postponed the review writing, which meant I had to read it again to for this post. And I totally did not mind reading it all over again!!
And this book reminded me of a quote from another recent read that seems to fit it perfectly:
“Great books give us spine-tingling plots or twists that reach right into your lungs and snatch your breath.” – The Library of Lost Things
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The Blog Tour
Thank you to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the eARC of the book; and thanks again to Wednesday Books for inviting me on this blog tour for Lobizona.
The Book Review
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.
While the concept is a familiar one (the protagonist finding a whole new world with a magical school they belong in finally, and all the excitement therein), Garber’s use of this beautiful story to highlight many important issues makes this impactful and unique.
Her story telling is beautiful and lyrical and richly imaginative! She crafts a beautiful and intricate magical world, and blends it seamlessly with the real world; the story weaves back and forth between these as we turn the pages eagerly to find out what happens next.
What I Loved
That perfect combination of contemporary and fantasy
Garber combines many different elements (magic, fantasy, Argentine folklore, myths and legends, as well as real world issues) into a smart, dramatic, and engaging tale that you won’t want to put down once you start reading it.
Who would not love a tree of books that is a living library? Or an exciting game of magical football? And then that cool magical school itself!
And all this is made real with how the book is unapologetic about showing us harsh realities; especially those faced by undocumented immigrants: the living in fear and hiding, of trying to be invisible when all you want to do is belong and fit in, how deportation and separation impact lives, and more.
Garber also addresses gender discrimination, misogyny, and homophobia among other issues; and she does so in a way that readers can relate. On the lighter side of reality, I could relate to “subtitling in Spanish,” as Manu thinks of it while in conversation with family.
I loved all the characters: especially Manu(of course), Tiago, Sasya, Cata, Pablo, Diego, and Perla (Manu’s adoptive grandmother). By the way, I also loved Flora, that wonderful tree in this magical world!
I loved the diversity and representation in this book. And between all the characters, they are real and fantastical, flawed and kind of perfect, and totally relatable! I enjoyed watching each one of them develop through the story, as they go on a journey of self-discovery (again Manu’s especially, well, of course), discover friendships and love, and band together to work towards a better life.
Reading this is like those theme park rides that take you from the utterly calm and slow, to the speed and thrill of the exciting twists and drops; in the end, it all rounds to just what the reader enjoys! New discoveries, twists and turns, keep delighting the reader at the right intervals to keep us turning the pages. And when we reach the end, we feel sad that the book is done, but also excited because the stage is solidly set for the next book in this series.
Other (Coming of age depictions/Trivia and such/and more)
It was truly refreshing to see that the book includes menstrual cycles as an important part of the story, and as something natural and normal; this is not often seen in YA (or for that matter, most) literature. And of course, sweet first loves and strong lasting friendships as well as heart-warming family bonds.
I learned about Argentine culture and life (and learning about other cultures is simply wonderful); Argentine folklore, myths and fables which this fed my love for folklore; and many trivia facts as well (like the huge number of bookshops in Argentina)
Those bookish references (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Borges, Harry Potter, Austen, and a few more) are bound to make any book lover (like me) happy! It is like discovering those cool bonuses in an already cool anything!
Of course, the cover as well. Isn’t is simply gorgeously stunning?!!
And while I have said it before, the world building is simply out-of-the-world!
While I normally include quotes I marked up, the writing is so rich, lyrical, and feel-good that I ended marking up way too many quotes and picking just a few from those proved to be difficult.
So here are a few from Goodreads (they were among the ones that I loved anyway):
“Sometimes reality strays so far from what’s rational that we can only explain it through fantasy.”
“Why settle for being a son of the system, when you can mother a movement?”
“You’re saying if no one’s told my story before … I get to tell it the way I want?”
What Could Have Made it Better
Of course, you can see I loved it!! On the other hand, I also know I would loved to see some more of the focus on Manu’s family; and there was one (very brief) scene of physical assault that I felt should have been addressed some more. But I also know there is going to be a next book in this series, so hoping that all that I would have loved to be addressed more or those characters that I want to learn more about, will happen then!
Deportation of immigrants, ICE, racial and gender bias(challenged), homophobia(challenged), menstruation
So yes, Lobizona has it all!! Magical realism (of course) and that is not just it; there is also family, friendships and new loves, belonging and “othering,” diversity and representation, reality and fantasy, truly magnificent world building and beautifully rich word building, and so much more to love. So what are you waiting for? Read it now!!
Note: I know this was a longer than usual review, but I had to say it all..
Get It Here
About the Author
ROMINA GARBER (pen name Romina Russell) is a New York Times and international bestselling author. Originally from Argentina, she landed her first writing gig as a teen—a weekly column for the Miami Herald that was later nationally syndicated—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her books include Lobizona. When she’s not working on a novel, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.
Would You Rather
Would you rather be a werewolf or a witch? Or maybe switching gears completely, a robot?
I would pick a witch… My kids sometimes say I am for my uncanny abilities to figure out what they were up to (and well, for other reasons that remind them of a cackling Baba Yaga) 🙂
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, what is your favorite science fiction or fantasy novel? Do let me know.
Linking up to the Ultimate Blog Challenge
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