Itzá: Rios de la Luz
Reviewed By Jamie Goecker
“Being alive hands us cruelty at any given moment, but we tend to prevail. We are formations of skin and cells and somehow we survive.”
It’s beautiful prose such as this that had me pausing to highlight passages as I read this book, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you there were many stops along the way. I took my time with this one, as there was much to savor. I went into this read blind, without reading a synopsis or other reviews. I was expecting a collection of separate stories or poems, but found this to be closer to a novella in form—one with a unique setup. With Itzá, we’re given a story of the lives of two sisters, along with the other women and experiences that shaped them along the way. The story is told in short chapters, each an episodic glimpse into the womens’ lives. These episodes do not run together in chronological order, but there’s no need for them to. The story flows in a smooth fashion, and it’s made up of short chapters, which I love. The short snippets sped up my reading, however, I think the content in this story would’ve propelled me along even if the chapters were longer.
As mentioned, the language is gorgeous, and the words have a poetic flair. It’s a sensory read in many ways, as the colors, smells, sights, and sounds all reach out and leave an imprint in the reader’s mind. By now, most of you know that I adore books that bring me through feeling, and Itzá hit that sweet spot. Some of the lines in this one left me blinking away tears. Much of the content centers around the story of the sisters’ grandmothers and their strong influence. I was immediately drawn into this book and only took two days to finish it because I paced myself. This story has its darkness, including real-life horrors such as abuse and trauma, but it also shines so much light on the girls’ culture, their coming-of-age experience, and the love that they share with each other and revered family members. In addition to the horror of humanity, there are also elements of magic and fantasy.
I ultimately loved this because it took me on a touching journey. I was immersed in this story of strong, resilient women, and related to some of their experience. But most of all I learned from this one, as I moved through unfamiliar territory, experiencing a story that is culturally different from my own. In the end, I wanted more of this vivid tale, and immediately sought out another collection from the author. My shelf of “Books I Want to Hug” is soon to be sagging under the weight of many books, and Itzá will be among that stack.
KR: Itzá is available as part of a Latinx Dark Fiction Bundle curated by V. Castro.
In her debut novella, Rios de la Luz examines the lives of a small family of water witches living near the US-Mexico border. Exploring issues of race and trauma along with beauty and magic, Itzá is a powerful reclamation of body and identity.
Jamie Goecker is a lifelong night owl and horror lover from Michigan. Her love of spooky things began as a child, when she first noticed that other kids were scared of the movies she treasured. Films such as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and Return to Oz fascinated her and sparked her imagination. Then came the Goosebumps and Fear Street book series by R.L. Stine, which ignited her love of horror fiction. Outside of her day job, she devotes as much time as possible to reading, reviewing, and her other love—listening to music. When she’s not engaged in those activities, she’s likely cooking, hunting for vintage paperbacks, daydreaming, or exploring the gorgeous local scenery (while also taking photos of books).