The Montoya family is used to strange occurrences. Unexplained phenomena are simply how life is around their grandmother. But when Orquídea Divina sends them an invitation to her funeral before she’s dead with the promise of an inheritance, they all return to the farm hoping to get answers. Instead, Orquídea leaves them with more questions than answers and in far more danger than any of them could dream.
“Everyone mistook her silence for being dim-witted, but Orquídea was as sharp as the knives in her pocket. She saw the truth in people’s lies. She saw the sin in their deeds.”
If you’re looking for the perfect witchy read going into Halloween, look no further. This book has all the family drama and wild magic of Practical Magic but with a rich Ecuadorian culture spanning lifetimes and continents.
It’s divine and delicious with barbed prose that sinks beneath your skin and stays––like the flowers that grow in three of Orquídea’s grandchildren. But that’s how this story feels. Like it becomes an unexplained part of you, reaching pieces of yourself you weren’t entirely aware you had or were missing.
This book is a story about family and curses, but it’s also about taking what you want and becoming who you want to be. Orquídea certainly does this as does Rey. But Marimar struggles to find what she wants as clearly as her cousin and it’s through her that we get to explore that every action has a reaction, every decision a consequence.
“It was as if there was something jagged within her, a bruise that she had passed down to all of her kids, and maybe even grandkids.”
I absolutely loved the warring oppositions Córdova discusses through her characters and plot. Anyone who reads fantasy understands that all magic has a price, the consequences of which have driven many plots over myriad stories for centuries. But because this isn’t a story about the direct consequences of one decision, but rather how it impacts generations, it merges the idea into our complex reality.
Family is complicated, and man, does Córdova really nail how messy and beautiful families can be. How you can love and reject them at the same time. How they can bring out the best in you and the worst in you. How the pain of one generation, one family member, one experience can somehow flow through all of your blood at the same time. Family changes you, it shapes you. And while the manifestations of those effects are physical in this story, that doesn’t diminish the greater truths wrapped inside.
One of the things I really loved about the family dynamic is how honest it is. It’s a tricky thing to heal the unhealthy aspects of a relationship while nurturing the healthy ones. It’s hard to work through the hurt and find forgiveness. It’s difficult to know how to balance boundaries in ways that allow relationships to thrive while protecting yourself. And yet, all of this is vital in building a solid foundation for any relationship, but especially family.
You have to be willing to confront the mess. To make it messier in order to reshape it into something stronger and safer. And while we may know how to do this on an individual level, it’s also important to do this on a familial level too. I love the idea of found family in stories but I think that this can include actual family too. We don’t choose who we are born to, or who raises us. But we can choose to embrace or reject that family in order to not just be true to ourselves, but to do what is best for ourselves too. And I love how that is explored in such a tender, thoughtful, nuanced way.
“How do you fight a thing that believes it owns you? How do you fight the past?”
While this book really does almost all of my favorite things in it, I’ll talk about one more because it’s probably one of my all-time favorite things ever. To say that the characters are morally grey is simplifying how beautifully Córdova weaves in the grey complexity of our world. People are not black and white. They aren’t one thing or another. They are a multitude of people, layers of decisions, years of choices catapulting us forward for better or worse or some combination of the two.
As we go through Orquídea’s past, we see how she is shaped. She reacts and her decisions create more reactions and all of it changes her in subtle ways. I love a character who starts as one thing and believes they are still that thing, when maybe they aren’t. I’m not saying she isn’t who she thinks she is, that’s for each reader to decide. After all, we’re all the heroes of our own stories. But there is a psychological truth embedded in the narrative.
When we simply react to a chain of events without evaluating what those reactions will mean to not just our future but our inner selves, it can be a slippery slope that ends in shocking places. The hardest lies to face are the ones we tell ourselves. And in that regard, each character has to face that truth within themselves in order to find the answers they need. Córdova takes us on such an emotionally rich and complex journey, and I was enthralled until the very end.
“For you. For all of you. We become what we need to in order to survive and I need to make sure that you are all protected.”
One last thing before I end this love letter of a review. Well, two. First, there are so many sentences that pierce to the heart of society and people that it was an impossible task finding just a few to feature in this review. Córdova has a sharp eye when it comes to seeing the world for what it is and people for who they are, rather than getting caught up in the superficiality of it all. I have so many pages and passages flagged it’s safe to say I am enamored with all of it.
Second, she references Baz Luhrmann and that’s seriously all I need to know to decide we’d be very good friends. Zoraida, if you ever stumble across this, hi (waves in awkward).
So that’s it. Five very stabby stars. I loved the characters, the themes, the plot, and talk about an explosive ending. The journey from beginning to end was spectacular and while this book is a standalone, I can easily see reading more from these characters and in this world. If you love witches, complex family dynamics, emotionally powerful journeys, and magic, you will adore The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina.
Thank you Atria books and Book Club Favorites for sending this gorgeous novel my way.