by Zoraida Córdova
Publication: September 6, 2016
My rating: 4/5 stars
Spoilers: A few minor ones; none for the main plot
"I would follow you into the darkest dark."
Now that's a love quote! I won't attribute it to avoid spoilers, but I really enjoyed the relationship in this book. All the relationships were great, actually, romantic and otherwise; strong friendships and family dynamics also played into the story.
This book was overwhelmingly strong and well-written, but there were a few details I didn't like. First, the protagonist falls under the classic "Chosen One" archetype (there's literally a line that says "the encantrix is Chosen" complete with capitalization), and the book is heavy on tropes in general. Second, I appreciate that this wasn't a ditch-the-best-friend-two-chapters-in book, but Rishi showing up in Los Lagos seemed contrived. There were also a few issues of word choice, most notably the unfortunate description of Nova's eyes as "bipolar" because they change color. Finally, there was a slight problem with tension and pacing at the end of the second act that diminished an otherwise powerful climax.
Again, those were minor flaws — I felt the positives far outnumbered the negatives. I loved reading about a character whose attraction to more than one gender didn't define her story. The world was richly built and beautifully immersive without falling into info-dump territory. Family bonds are shown as important but not perfect or easy to maintain.
This was a fun, feel-good read, and I'm looking forward to the release of the sequel!
Recipe: (Part of) the Faun King's Feast
There's a scene in Los Lagos where Alex and her companions meet Agosto the faun king and his exiled adas, which are like fairies. They share a feast of delicious food that turns out it was rotten and poisoned the whole time, but sounds amazing while the glamour lasts. They saw "white, fluffy cakes drizzled with honey and sprinkled with fat, sparkling sugar crystals" and "roasted meat...surrounded by tender root vegetables the color of blood and bone," roasted chicken, and potatoes smothered in rosemary and sea salt. I haven't tried to replicate the honey-drizzled cakes yet, but I'll add them here if I do!
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from this Simply Sated recipe for a less burny temperature and cooking time. As you can see, I scorched this batch a bit, although they still tasted fine.
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
7 or 8 medium potatoes (russet or Yukon Gold work best)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 450°F. Melt butter in a medium mixing bowl; add salt, rosemary, and pepper. Peel potatoes and trim (if necessary) so that they're all very close in size. Cut off rounded/pointed ends and slice each potato into three discs of even thickness. Add potatoes to the butter mixture and toss or stir to coat.
Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and pour any remaining butter over them. Note: If your baking sheet is dark/seasoned, you may need to decrease the following cooking times. I didn't think about this, which is why the potatoes in my pictures are...very well-done. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
Remove pan from oven and flip potatoes with a spatula. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes longer. Meanwhile, stir together chicken broth and minced garlic in a bowl or measuring cup. Remove pan from oven and flip potatoes. Pour the broth-garlic mixture over potatoes and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender when tested with a fork. Remove potatoes to a plate and pour reduced broth/butter from the pan into a cup; spoon over potatoes when serving.
Pollo asado is Puerto Rican roast chicken with a garlic rub/sauce (I chose it because some of Alex's relatives on her father's side are from Puerto Rico). I adapted this recipe into something less authentic but also less likely to poison my spouse with orange juice (plus a few other minor changes); feel free to use the original if you prefer!
a 3-4 lb. whole roasting chicken
10 cloves garlic OR 1 head roasted garlic
1 tbsp coarse salt
1/2 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp chipotle sauce and/or chiles
Thaw chicken if necessary (this can take more than a day if you do it the recommended way in the refrigerator). In a blender or food processor, blend garlic, salt, peppercorn, oregano, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, and chipotle sauce and/or chiles until a paste forms. Rinse chicken and pat dry; place in a roasting pan and rub with spice paste, being sure to get a bunch of it under the skin. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.
Drain any liquid that has accumulated in the pan. Preheat oven to 450°F. Roast chicken for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and cook for 20 minutes PER POUND (or until the internal temperature is at least 165°F). Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
Glazed Roasted Carrots
To get the effect mentioned in the book, I bought rainbow carrots and used the white and dark red ones. The colors bleed a bit during the roasting process, but they're still delicious!
4 white carrots and 4 dark red carrots
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp coarse salt
Preheat oven to 375°F. Peel carrots and cut into sticks of approximately the same size. (Here's a good instructional video for cutting carrot batons, but you can also wing it. They're just carrots.) Put carrots on a baking sheet/pan and coat with olive oil. Drizzle the honey over the carrots and sprinkle them with salt. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until tender.