cover image Bindle Punk Bruja

Bindle Punk Bruja

Desideria Mesa. Harper Voyager, $17.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-305608-4

Mesa’s ambitious but messy historical fantasy debut plunges deep into the underbelly of Prohibition-era Kansas City, following half-white, half-Mexican Luna Alvarado as she crafts a new life for herself as Rose Lane, cub reporter by day, and speakeasy manager by night. Passing as white is not as difficult as passing as mortal; she’s also half bruja, or earth witch, and her powers manifest in an ability to charm men into doing her will by kissing them. She uses this charm to open a club “with real booze and a real orchestra” in the ritzy Hotel Bellerive—but as soon as she does, the Klan tries to shut her down, local mobsters extort her, all the men in her life try to claim and control her, and Al Capone schemes to use her to expand his operations across the Midwest. The result is fun but shallow, with brassy one-note characters who constantly repeat themselves and often speak in goofily rendered dialects (“Hey, latecoma’, I’m the one who’s skewa’d here!”) in between bewildering or groan-worthy descriptions of emotions (“his eyes hardening in sable angst”). This is a lesser addition to the recent slew of 1920s-set SFF, one perhaps best left to diehard fans of Prohibition-era historical fantasy. Agent: Rachel Brooks, Bookends Literary. (Sept.)