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’m not quite sure what drew me to this book. I think it was kind of a what the heck, I’ll try it. I actually thought it was an adult book for a bit, because the cover kind of feels like an adult one. But, it is firmly YA! I basically only knew that the main character would discover magic along the way and would learn about a new world. And that was enough for me to give it a try.
This book was seriously amazing. I started off only really liking it and not loving it, but as the book went on, I ended up loving everything about it and that’s rare for me. My feelings don’t usually change so drastically. As the book goes on, Manu discovers more about herself and more about the world she is discovering. I loved discovering things with her. I loved watching her change and I loved watching the world around her change. It’s such a clear progression and it allowed everything to blossom in such a great way.
Also, werewolf books are usually hit or miss for me. I dunno, I guess it’s hard to impress me with werewolves haha. But I seriously loved this one. In this world, there’s brujas (witches, the girls) and lobizons (werewolves, the boys). It’s very gendered. But Manu is female and she’s a lobizona, a female werewolf. It’s amazing. The way it was set up was incredible.
The friendships were one of the best things. Manu has been secluded most of her life, but she finally gets to make friends. I loved the pack dynamics and I loved how she found the people she wants to protect and the people who want to protect her. It’s rocky at first, but they get to grow together. I loved watching their friendship grow and I loved watching them grow closer together.
There’s also an academy for the witches and werewolves to study! I adore academy stories and it was so cool to see them train. I feel like it gives a really good look at the world dynamics and how things are structured.
The world was so, so intricate. I’m having a hard time phrasing some things since I don’t want to leave anything out, but I also don’t want to be confusing. There’s so many moving parts. There’s so many relationships and secrets and there’s a certain hierarchy that the brujas and lobizons/lobizonas have to fit into. Still, I wasn’t confused at all and I didn’t feel like there was a lot of info dump. Manu is learning at the same time I was, so any long stretches of information felt fascinating rather than hindering. Plus, everything is so gorgeous. It’s absolutely bursting with nature and it’s laced with magic. Sometimes things felt so big that I had a hard time figuring them out in my head and I love huge fantasy worlds. But I didn’t think it was a bad thing! There is just so much. There’s a huge tree, so many plants, so many creatures, and so many huge buildings that are so fascinating. It was so cool.
There is also the harsh realities immigrants face, misogyny, and strict rules about where and how you can exist. I felt like it all came together in a way that felt right. It’s hard to explain, but all these things that Manu is struggling with merge together in a way. They’re their own struggles, but the work together to a bigger message. And Manu wants to help fight all of them. She wants to help make the world better. She wants to fight to make sure her loved ones don’t get hurt or don’t have to go through life hurting.
There’s also a witch/werewolf version of soccer, shadow puppies (shadow wolves, but still), giant monstrous creatures, lots of cool plants, a different dimension, periods, super sweet guys, and lots of magic! It’s seriously packed full of so many amazing things that I’m having a hard time describing them all. And they all work together and it’s incredible.
This book was amazing. I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I do, but I’m glad I read it. I can’t wait for the next book. I loved Manu, Tiago, Cata, Saysa, and the rest of the pack. I loved the magic and the academy. I just loved so much.
Thank you for reading!