BY: Romina Garber
SERIES: Wolves of no World #1
GENRE/S: Fantasy, Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
PUBLICATION: August 4th 2020 by Wednesday Books
NOTE: I received an e-copy in exchange for an honest reviewand for a blog tour.
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.
The first thing I want to say about Lobizona is that it reads more like YA Contemporary with fantasy or magical realism added to it, which in my case is a good thing because lately, I’ve been reading lots of high fantasy. Lobizona was a breath of fresh air I didn’t know I needed.
Lobizona features Manu, an Argentinian immigrant who’s hiding in Miami with her mother and surrogate grandmother, and running from her father’s criminal past. But when her world crumbles, she learns that there’s so much more to her existence and that her unusual eyes and the changes in her body and senses she’s experiencing connect her to a world straight out of an Argentinian folklore. Manu comes to realize that her entire existence is illegal and not just in America.
The gripping prologue sets the tone of the entire book and tells the reader what the story will be about. The story shows the most genuine picture of alienation – how unwelcoming the world can be to someone different and the challenges that come along with it. Needless to say, Lobizona tackles an issue in our world that our POC friends have been dealing with since forever. I’m also POC but I’ve never been a victim of it, at least not in the worst way. That’s why I think this book is important, not only does it educate people about what’s really happening, it encourages us to care. But more importantly, it shows the strength of the oppressed and in a brilliant way.
Manu didn’t let her identity as an immigrant and an abomination to her kind to bring her down, instead she fought and showed that being different is what make her special and that she’s stronger than what the world sees her as. For that, I cared for and admired Manu. And I think it’s brilliant that the author made the story with fantasy elements because no matter how important the theme is, it can be hard to read for others. If this is pure contemporary, it can be harder to read…don’t get me wrong, I’m sure most of us care and want to read to be educated about this issue but for others, this can be triggering. So this book is for those people.
I think the magical/fantasy aspect is an amazing concept. I definitely enjoyed learning about the fictional world the author created and of the folklore it’s based on. The blurb says about an Argentinian folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. And Manu’s existence doesn’t fit in that rule, that’s what made her a kind of abomination. I won’t mention what she is to avoid spoiling it but it’s a brilliant concept. Actually, the title reveals it. And oh I love tying her powers with her menstrual period. I’ve always joked about the menstrual period of women characters in fantasy and it’s nice to see it in Lobizona. Also, it makes sense that Manu’s powers began resurfacing in her puberty stage.
My only issue with the fantasy elements is that Manu’s character suffers from cliches of the chosen-one trope. It’s understandable that she’s different and strong because of it and that her magic is the most special of all but sometimes, it’s a bit much. Aside from that, there are other tropes used throughout the story that made some parts of the plot predictable. There’s even a magical school and everything in and about it is cliche.
Another issue of mine is the characters. I found ALL of them a bit one dimensional, yes even Manu. But this is only the first book in the series so there’s more time for development. Speaking of the characters, I didn’t like the romance. It’s my least favorite aspect of the story. First, it’s trope-y. Second, it has a hint of cheating. I always find love triangle unnecessary in stories, especially if it makes other aspects, more important aspects, of the story complicated, unnecessarily.
But my issues are nothing compared to the good things about the book. This is such an important read, tackling an important issue and I find myself excited for book 2. I was contacted by the publicist/publisher to be part of this blog tour so maybe I can contact them back for the next book. Hehe. If you’re looking for an important read with a hint of fantasy, Lobizona is for you.
RATING: 3.5 blissful pages with lilies
I call her Other Manu.
The first thing I ever noticed about her was her Argentine fútbol jersey: #10 Lionel Messi. Then I saw her face and real- ized we look a lot alike. I was reading Borges at the time, and it occurred to me that she and I could be the same person in overlapping parallel universes.
But it’s an older man and not Other Manu who lopes down the street. She wouldn’t be up this early on a Sunday anyway. I arch my back again, and thankfully this time, the only pop I hear is in my joints.
The sun’s golden glare is strong enough that I almost wish I had my sunglasses. But this rooftop is sacred to me because it’s the only place where Ma doesn’t make me wear them, since no one else comes up here.
I’m reaching for the stairwell door when I hear it. Faint footsteps are growing louder, like someone’s racing up. My heart shoots into my throat, and I leap around the corner right as the door swings open. The person who steps out is too light on their feet to be someone who lives here. No El Retiro resident could make it up the stairs that fast. I flatten myself against the wall.
“Creo que encontré algo, pero por ahora no quiero decir nada.”
Whenever Ma is upset with me, I have a habit of translat- ing her words into English without processing them. I asked Perla about it to see if it’s a common bilingual thing, and she said it’s probably my way of keeping Ma’s anger at a distance; if I can deconstruct her words into language—something de- tached that can be studied and dissected—I can strip them of their charge.
As my anxiety kicks in, my mind goes into automatic trans- lation mode: I think I found something, but I don’t want to say anything yet.
The woman or girl (it’s hard to tell her age) has a deep, throaty voice that’s sultry and soulful, yet her singsongy accent is unquestionably Argentine. Or Uruguayan. They sound similar. My cheek is pressed to the wall as I make myself as flat as possible, in case she crosses my line of vision.
“Si tengo razón, me harán la capitana más joven en la his- toria de los Cazadores.”
If I’m right, they’ll make me the youngest captain in the history of the . . . Cazadores? That means hunters.
In my eight years living here, I’ve never seen another person on this rooftop. Curious, I edge closer, but I don’t dare peek around the corner. I want to see this stranger’s face, but not badly enough to let her see mine.
“¿El encuentro es ahora? Che, Nacho, ¿vos no me podrías cubrir?”
Is the meeting right now? Couldn’t you cover for me, Nacho?
The che and vos sound like Argentinespeak. What if it’s Other Manu?
The exciting possibility brings me a half step closer, and now my nose is inches from rounding the corner. Maybe I can sneak a peek without her noticing.
“Okay,” I hear her say, and her voice sounds like she’s just a few paces away.
I suck in a quick inhale, and before I can overthink it, I pop my head out—
And see the door swinging shut. I scramble over and tug it open, desperate to spot even a hint of her hair, any clue at all to confirm it was Other Manu— but she’s already gone.
All that remains is a wisp of red smoke that vanishes with the swiftness of a morning cloud.
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.
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