Friday, November 24, 2023

Book Review | BINDLE PUNK BRUJA by Desideria Mesa

Bindle Punk Bruja
by Desideria Mesa
Publication: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Rating: ★★

A part-time reporter and club owner takes on crooked city councilmen, mysterious and deadly mobsters, and society's deeply rooted sexism and racism, all while keeping her true identity and magical abilities hidden --inspired by an ancient Mexican folktale.

Yo soy quien soy. I am who I am.

Luna--or depending on who's asking, Rose--is the white-passing daughter of an immigrant mother who has seen what happens to people from her culture. This world is prejudicial, and she must hide her identity in pursuit of owning an illegal jazz club. Using her cunning powers, Rose negotiates with dangerous criminals as she climbs up Kansas City's bootlegging ladder. Luna, however, runs the risk of losing everything if the crooked city councilmen and ruthless mobsters discover her ties to an immigrant boxcar community that secretly houses witches. Last thing she wants is to put her entire family in danger.

But this bruja with ever-growing magical abilities can never resist a good fight. With her new identity, Rose, an unabashed flapper, defies societal expectations all the while struggling to keep her true self and witchcraft in check. However, the harder she tries to avoid scrutiny, the more her efforts eventually capture unwanted attention. Soon, she finds herself surrounded by greed and every brand of bigotry--from local gangsters who want a piece of the action and businessmen who hate her diverse staff to the Ku Klux Klan and Al Capone. Will her earth magic be enough to save her friends and family? As much as she hates to admit it, she may need to learn to have faith in others--and learning to trust may prove to be her biggest ambition yet.

I was excited to read BINDLE PUNK BRUJA, a book that promised to combine 1920s glamour, gangsters, politics, and magic with a Latina heroine. Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to my expectations to deliver a coherent and engaging story. The book follows Rose/Luna, a bruja who runs a speakeasy in 1920s New York and must deal with racism, sexism, and probably everything else in between.

The premise sounded amazing, but the execution was lacking. The book felt like a mess of different plot threads that never came together or made sense. The pacing was uneven, the characters were underdeveloped, and the magic system was vague and inconsistent. It took me several starts and stops, with weeks apart, to finish the book.

The only thing I liked about the book was the representation of a woman of color in a historical fantasy setting. I enjoyed the historical setting and the atmosphere of the 1920s, with its jazz, speakeasies, and social changes. I appreciated the author's attempt to portray the struggles and challenges that Rose/Luna faced as a biracial woman in a hostile society. I appreciated the representation of her culture and heritage, and how it influenced her choices and actions. I also liked the idea of her having two identities: Rose, the glamorous and successful club owner who passes as white, and Luna, the powerful and rebellious bruja who embraces her heritage. However, I felt that this aspect was not explored enough or explained well. I was confused about how Rose/Luna's magic worked and what it meant for her personality and relationships. I wanted to know more about her family, her culture, and her history.

Overall, I think this book wasted a great opportunity to tell a compelling and original story. It had a lot of potential, but it failed to deliver on its promises.


About the Author:

Desideria Mesa is often found getting lost in a historical, sci-fi, or high fantasy novel or crafting her own stories, of course. Aside from churning out novels, she enjoys writing songs, poetry, and short stories. Follow @DesideriaMesa on Twitter for writing discussion, slightly inappropriate jokes, and more information on her historical fantasy debut, Bindle Punk Bruja.

*Thanks to Harper Voyager for the printed ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.


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