Should I rate a book low because I've read so many stories exactly like it, using the personal family experiences of the writer to create archetypal worlds in which a lot of people would recognize themselves? Should I be influenced by the fact I've just watched (and hated) The Tiger's Apprentice hours before I started reading this book and realizing the stories are almost identical? Or should I just rate it compared to better books and subtract a star? Because as it is, it feels a bit too harsh to rate it three stars, while being certain it does not deserve four.
Labyrinth Lost is a children/young adult book about brujas (Spanish for witch). Just like in any number of similar stories, Zoraida Cordova takes some aspects of Latin culture and religion and then proceeds with the same exact plot: well meaning, but completely stupid teen who is also THE ONE does something emotional, then tries to undo it, growing in the process. She has protectors that have watched her from afar without her knowledge and friends who aren't what they seem, mentors that have imparted just a tiny smidge of knowledge before vanishing or dying, usually right before a life branching time or ritual approaches. The villain is a psychotic evil person without any hope of redemption, completely two dimensional, powerful beyond belief, yet reluctant to attack before the hero gathers enough information, power and friends to defeat them. There are magical worlds, magical NPCs, betrayal, love, friendship and [Vin Diesel voice] family. There are moments where the power of the hero is conveniently either not available or exactly the type and power required, and it comes from the heart, not - God forbid - from actual effort to learn or train. And when that's not possible, always a ghost, ethereal transmission or unexpected ally comes to the rescue. Decisions are taken from kindness or some sort of deep ingrained morality, but thought or planning. You know the drill.
At no point of the book was I surprised or warmed up to any of the characters as they were thoroughly formulaic, like they had no identity of their own. I think that makes the book a completely average product. Predictable story, mid characters with no agency or realistic growth, average writing skill. Yup, three stars.
P.S. Are teens actually reading stuff? Because it feels like people are writing books now solely in hope that they will be optioned for film adaptions which then will push armies of identical children to buy and read the books at the same time.