The Red Labyrinth – Meredith Tate

I am brave. I am strong. And I am not afraid.

I always love the opportunity to cheer for an underdog. Zadie lives in Trinnea and is a Blank in a society dominated by people with Skills. Zadie’s family had to pay for her be allowed to live within the walls of Trinnea but she will never be considered equal to the Skilled, whose abilities range from super-hearing to telekinesis and levitation.

Blanks are considered abominations – genetic mistakes.

Traumatised by years of childhood slavery and abuse, and continually tormented and bullied by the Skilled, Zadie lives her life in fear. She’s loved her best friend and protector, Landon, for years, but then he disappears into the labyrinth and Zadie is the only person who can remember him.

No one who enters the maze comes out the same.

Zadie is determined to save her best friend but to do this she’ll need to team up with the Dex, the Devil of Trinnea, and find a way through the maze of the labyrinth. Zadie doesn’t know which will kill her first.

I loved facing the dangers of the maze with Zadie and Dex, never knowing what challenge it would send their way next. Zadie’s tenacity despite her fear endeared her to me and her responses to trauma felt authentic. Throughout the book I kept thinking that Zadie had PTSD and although this is never stated, learning the author has a master’s degree in social work has only strengthened this belief. Regardless, Zadie’s determination inspired me.

My favourite character was Dex. His complexity made me want to keep digging beneath the surface to find out more about his history, motivations and character. He did not let me down.

I was engaged and entertained for the duration and enjoyed getting to know the main characters and their backgrounds. I didn’t have any problems navigating the transitions between the past and present, and felt the flashbacks added necessary background and context to the narrative.

I was disappointed by one of Zadie’s decisions near the end of the book, even though I understood the reasons behind it. Her initial damsel in distress mode, where she had a practically pathological need to be saved by a man, made me cringe. I also found the sand guardian annoying at times. Overall though, these were only fairly minor quibbles in a book that pleasantly surprised me.

I was torn between satisfied and frustrated by the way this book ended. While some answers are given, more questions do arise and there are plenty of loose ends, so a sequel feels inevitable. If there’d been a definite resolution for Dex then I probably would have been happy with a standalone. There’s definitely scope for a lot more to happen with Dex and Zadie, and there’s plenty more in this world to discover. I’ll be there for the sequel.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flux, an imprint of North Star Editions, for the opportunity to read this book and discover a new (to me) author.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalver’s isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze’s shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path. 

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists, completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through Dex into forming a tenuous alliance. 

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first.

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