santa muerte review

THE YEAR IS 2030. IN A DRAMATIC, final attempt to free her inner demons, twenty-year-old Daniela Delgado tempts fate and winds up on a strange farm in 1923. With an olive complexion due to her Mexican/Italian heritage and a fresh pixie cut, she is mistaken for a “boy of color.” Her only shot at survival now is to play it cool, pose as “Danny,” and figure out how to get back home to her two, loving moms.

And then she meets Daphne—an abused, motherless farm girl in desperate need of freedom and a friend. Having escaped Daphne’s father, the two of them are now roaming the streets of New York City disguised as a young aristocrat and her male servant. They’re running out of money, and ideas. And Daniela thought living in 2030 was tough.

But her solar powered smart phone works. And there’s someone within range. She pings them. A selfie of an attractive male comes in with the text: I’m Lain. Who the f— are you? Even in that moment, Daniela knows this can’t be safe, but what are her choices? They meet Lain at a speakeasy on the Lower East Side. When Daniela reveals her last name, Lain says the only Delgado he knows is Anaya—the head of the Santa Muerte Coven of witches in Merida, Mexico. And then he hints that Daniela is a liar, even though she rocks a man’s three-piece suit like no woman he’s ever met. And as for her tattoos? Don’t get Lain started….

Despite the intrigue, Daniela adds Lain to the list of folks Daphne and she must outrun to stay alive. But as they plan their trip to Mexico, they soon discover that list is much longer than they thought. And they uncover a few other things, too, about Daniela’s true identity….

Hello, all! I was given the wonderful opportunity to review Lucina Stone’s Santa Muerte by Rich in Variety. As I’m discovering my love of diverse SFF, I thought this looked like the perfect book for me, and I jumped at the chance. For those who are new readers *waves*, I’m going to remind you here that most of my reviews do include spoilers. I also give explicit trigger warnings that may reveal some of the plot. The mental health of other readers is more important to me than any spoilers.

Trigger warnings: the novel begins with an attempted suicide. There are references to Daniela’s past abusive boyfriend, and Daphne is sexually assaulted by her father. There is also racism, the use of the ‘n’ word, and an attempt to touch Daniela without her consent.

Right then. This is only the second novel that I’ve read that discusses the problems of being a time-traveler who is also a person of colour (the first being Kindred). I think the way Stone talks about the cultural differences between 2030 and 1923 were fantastic. In 20s New York, Daniela is stopped from going into ‘white only’ shops, and is treated with contempt. In the countryside, things get even more dangerous, as the threat of the KKK is very real. I love the exploration into the realities of time-travel, because too often (in my mind), time-travel narratives are annoyingly unrealistic about this sort of thing.

I also really liked the Mexican folklore that was woven into the plot. It is quite feminist, as it really focuses on the power of women, and especially mothers. (One point about the Mexican influence – there are occasional uses of Spanish, which is not italicised! Hurray! It usually isn’t given a direct translation either. While I do know a little bit of Spanish, I think that the meaning should be easily understandable given the contexts.) This feminist power is also furthered by the fact that Daniela has two mothers. While this isn’t the focus of the novel, it does make the book wonderfully women-heavy.

The one thing I didn’t like all that much was that even when Anaya was explaining the magic of the Santa Muerte coven to Daniela’s mom, it didn’t really feel well-rounded. I would have loved a couple more in-depth explanations of why this family, how their magic works, and why Anaya didn’t tell the younger generations about their potential powers. Also, Lain is weirdly obsessed with Daniela, particularly with her piercings. Her tongue piercing was given particular significance, but I really don’t know why. I suppose this is a downfall of being a first book in a series, so I hope that the sequel will explain all of this.

I will definitely be reading the sequel when it is released. While Santa Muerte posed a lot of unanswered questions, this didn’t stop me enjoying it as a sensitively-written and diverse fantasy.

NB: my choice for POC in SFF for Diversity Bingo 2017


8 thoughts on “santa muerte review

  1. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    I haven’t heard of this before, but I’m glad to see your review! Kindred is on my TBR for this year. I’m surprised more authors aren’t exploring what it’s like for a modern person of color to time travel to segregated America, honestly. Perhaps it’s still too soon?

    Despite trigger warnings, I’ll definitely add this to my TBR. Great review!


  2. Grab the Lapels says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that goes into the past that includes ANYTHING about Mexico. Why is it everyone always travels to New York or London? Were those the only two places that existed in “the past”? Sheesh! This book sounds fun! How many will be in the series, or is it not clear yet?


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