Friday, June 7, 2019

BOOK REVIEW | The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate

Title: The Red Labyrinth
Author: Meredith Tate
Series? Seemingly so, but I can't find any information.
Pages: 352
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Flux Publishing
Source: I received an e-arc of The Red Labyrinth in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalver's isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze's shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path.

But when Zadie's best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through-Dex-into forming a tenuous alliance.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie's one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don't kill her first.

The Red Labyrinth is a dystopian fantasy novel by Meredith Tate. As someone who reads a lot of romance and rarely any sci-fi or fantasy anymore, The Red Labyrinth was a great reprieve from my contemporary reads. However, just because I haven't read many fantasy novels recently, doesn't mean I haven't. When reading this, I enjoyed the novel, but couldn't help but compare it to other fantasies I've read. The Red Labyrinth isn't the strongest fantasy novel I have read by any means, but it is entertaining, even if it comes off as juvenile. 
An overarching issue I had with The Red Labyrinth was its tone. From reading the book, I definitely think that the targeted audience for this novel is between 13 and 16 years of age. However, I sincerely believe that entertainment can still be amazing, even if the audience is outside the target audience. For instance, I get immense joy out of movies like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Paddington, and more. This can translate into literature as well, with many adults enjoying young adult, young adults enjoying adult fiction (like myself) and both young adults and adults enjoying middle grade. Unfortunately, The Red Labyrinth didn't have this universality to its narrative, making me feel disconnected from the story. I most likely would have loved the book when I was in middle school and just starting to read YA, but as a more seasoned and old reader, there were multiple times I was taken out of the story. I thought the villains were one dimensional, the true villain was obvious, and that the world needed a lot more fleshing out. Essentially, The Red Labyrinth followed all the familiar beats of a dystopian, without adding much to the genre.

Despite my issues with the novel, it was still entertaining. Even though I would roll my eyes at character's decisions, it had been so long since I was reading a setting different from my own world. Though I wish the world was fleshed out, it was great to be back in a fantasy world, especially one where people had superpowers. I also thought that the social hierarchy was pretty interesting, with people having more status depending on how many powers they had. Zorie is talentless, which leads to a traumatic childhood at a forced labor camp, constant bullying, and internalized shame. 

The one thing The Red Labyrinth does really well is the familial relationships. Zorie has a complicated relationship with her sister, and I really loved that Tate took the time to explain the animosity between them. So often women and sisters are pitted against each other, and I loved that there were steps to rebuilding that relationship. Additionally, Zorie has a strong relationship with her mother. Yes, we actually have parents in this novel! Let us rejoice. 

Lastly, the one thing I really liked about the novel was Zorie's character development. Since Zorie is talentless, she thinks she is powerless. At times, this grated on me, because Zorie could not see all of her potential, despite her lack of powers. However, Zorie grew as a character and became more sure of herself, her needs and desires, and her power. This was really the saving grace of the novel, and what kept me reading. I'm interested to see what happens to Zorie and her newfound empowerment in the sequel. 

The Red Labyrinth isn't the strongest fantasy out there, as the narrative follows many familiar plot points. However, this seems like a great intro to the genre for younger readers on the YA spectrum. Despite my issues with The Red Labyrinth, the familial relationships and Zorie's character growth made the novel worthwhile. 

With that, I give The Red Labyrinth 
3 out of 5 Flowers! 

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