Book Reviews

Book Review: Bindle Punk Bruja

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By Desideria Mesa

Publication Date:  September 13, 2022

396 Pages

I initially requested this ARC because of the title.  How can you not love that title?  Add in magic and a roaring 20s setting – I’m in!

Here’s the blub: Rose is a white-passing copy editor by day and an up-and-coming speakeasy owner by night.  With her family, she’s Luna, a half-Mexican bruja who works her charm magic to get ahead in the world.  If only she had her Abuela’s earth magic, she’d really be able to make things happen.  But Rose is playing a dangerous game in a man’s world.  Everyone – from politicians to mobsters are – ruthless but also a necessary evil for Rose to deal with if she wants to succeed. However, one whiff of her immigrant origins would be enough to bring everything she’s built tumbling down.

But Rose isn’t on her own.  She has the help of her brother Javier, her fiance Heck (who is hiding his own secrets), and the loyal employees of her club to help her succeed, even if her magic isn’t up to snuff.  If she can learn to trust those who love her, not even the biggest gangster, most crooked politician, or the Klan will be able to keep her down.

There’s a whole lot to unpack in this book.  First off, the setting.  I loved it!  What’s not to love about the flapper-era in Kansas City when it’s really well done?  The lingo felt a bit heavy at times, but for most of the book, it was simply immersive.  I have to repeat: really, really well done.  Then we have the earth magic.  That was also done brilliantly.  I don’t want to give out any spoilers but the way the magic is woven into the story and follows Luna/Rose’s arc was magical in its own right.

“Bindle Punk Bruja” interpreted by Wombo Dream

The book tackles several important social issues – both the plight of minorities and of homosexuals during the 1920s.  To be honest, I think only one would have sufficed since the novel already offers an immersive historical fiction setting and a magic system.  The story started with Luna’s plight of being accepted and hiding her Mexican heritage, then moved on to bringing in LGBTQA characters (quite a few of them) and the tension with the two groups seemed to shift back and forth. I felt like they fought for dominance throughout the book.  I’ve seen several reviews that went into this issue at length so I’ll leave this here for now.  There are plenty of opinions on Goodreads if anyone wants to peruse them.  

Honestly, the main thing that I stumbled over was the writing style.  The point of view is in first person and I think the author may have been trying to avoid using “my x” and “my y” a lot, but what I wound up with was inanimate objects becoming the actor in a sentence.  For instance, the walls scratched her shirt.  Or her hands had a sentience that hands shouldn’t have had.  And gerunds.  Gerunds galore in this novel.

Structure was another nitpick for me.  Whenever a new character entered a scene, the author withheld their identity for several sentences (or paragraphs) for no apparent reason, using a vague description like the reader is supposed to be able to see who walked in without her telling us.  I couldn’t figure out why.  I mean, just tell me who came in and then describe them.  Only one of them led to an “a ha!” moment where I thought the withholding was necessary.

Regardless of how my critique might sound, I really did like this book and I’ve yet to see another review mention the stylistic quirks that I stumbled over, so maybe that was just me.  Also, I’m a sucker for well-wrought historical fiction (and magic) so that upped my final rating a bit.

3.5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐+

Thank you to NetGalley and Avon & Harper Voyager for providing the ARC.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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