I was thrilled when Zoraida Córdova‘s new book, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, was selected as one of Book of the Month‘s main August picks. Her adult debut, this novel doesn’t publish more widely until September 7th, so I was excited to read it early. In fact, I’ve been on a bit of a Zoraida Córdova kick this month: I just read her Hollow Crown duology, including Incendiary and Illusionary. Both of those are YA historical fantasies, whereas The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is more magical realism and spans the mid-1900s and into the 2010s.
|The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova|
|Genre||Magical Realism; Fantasy; Horror|
|Setting||Ecuador; United States|
|Number of Pages||322|
|Format I Read||Hardcover|
|Original Publication Date||September 7, 2021|
The stars have shifted.
The earth has turned.
The time is here.
I am dying.
Come and collect your inheritance.
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked backed.
Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.
I pride myself on reading a lot of genres, but I have to admit, I have very little experience with magical realism. As such, I’m having a hard time figuring out how I feel about The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina; I’m not sure if I fully understood it, and perhaps rereading it in the future, after I’ve explored other works of magical realism, will help me better appreciate it.
At once, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is immersive and dreamlike. The writing is fluid and occasionally humorous, and the choice of what details to divulge or hide is up in the air. For example, as much as we know about Orquídea’s home in the valley, we have no confirmation as to what U.S. state Four Rivers is actually located in. Somewhere in the middle of the United States, it seems? Kansas? Oklahoma? Colorado? The exact year things take place is also generally murky. We only know that Orquídea made her Four Rivers home in 1960, and that her granddaughter Tatinelly was born in 1990; we just have to make educated guesses from there.
Early on, I enjoyed a few random, funny passages as well as heartwarming ones. Paul the Intern? Hilarious. Rey’s macho dad accepting his only son as gay? Beautiful. The description of the Sullivans? Lol. I also enjoyed getting to know Marimar and Rey, two of Orquídea’s grandchildren. They love their grandmother, but also find her bizarre and frustrating. Their family is weird, but aren’t all families eccentric in their own ways?
The entire first part of the novel was excellent in my opinion. We get to see the whole Montoya family come together for the most epic death I’ve ever seen in a novel. The family members bicker and fight; they work together and argue about everything. It’s chaotic and grows stranger with each passing page, but I was thoroughly engrossed.
Part two, however, lost me a bit. The contemporary plot jumps forward seven years in time, but it mostly felt slow and fuzzy, like a dream you’re eager to wake up from. One highlight of part two, though, is the element of horror that weaves into its final two chapters. A mysterious, dangerous figure is stalking two of our characters, putting one of them in the hospital. And all at once, some freak accidents leave a few Montoyas dead. Scary!
Part three of the novel finally lets us into the exciting years of Orquídea’s past, including her time in a circus and her messy first love. Both the chapters set in the 1950s and the contemporary ones bring excitement and wonder. Orquídea’s relationship was turbulent, but she was also finding herself, becoming more self-assured, and getting ready to make some life-changing choices. Meanwhile, her descendents in the 2010s are working to solve the mystery of the evil stalker, and the only way to save themselves is to get answers. That means going back to Orquídea’s hometown of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
This leads right into the action-packed end that is part four. Talking to the dead, searching out forgotten river monsters, meeting and aiming to defeat the lurking threat – it’s all here, along with the answers the Montoyas have been looking for all these years.
Throughout The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, I was struck by how strange everything was. My understanding of magical realism may be off, but to me, parts of this novel felt more like true fantasy. But then, other genres – or elements of them, at least – also crop up, including horror and mystery. This novel was certainly weird, and it was hard for me to wrap my head around it sometimes, but I did like how dreamy and magical it was.
It may take me some time to work out my feelings about The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, and it’s hard for me to give it a solid rating right now, but I can at least say that this novel is intriguing and unique. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I suspect I’ll be thinking about it for years to come. If you want an unusual, family-oriented story that spans from 1930s Ecuador through a 1950s globe-trotting circus to a strange little town in Anywhere, USA, a story that features stars and trees and ghosts, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is the right book for you.
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is a unique and magical novel that’s wholly worth picking up, and I’m eager to read more from Zoraida Córdova in the coming years. Beyond the Hollow Crown duology, which I loved, she also has more YA fantasy novels and short stories, and I’m curious to read the romances she’s written under the pen name Zoey Castile. She’s a talented and imaginative author, and I’m happy to see her books reaching wider audiences and acclaim.
About the Author
Zoraida Córdova is the acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels and short stories, including the Brooklyn Brujas series, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate, and The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. In addition to writing novels, she serves on the Board of We Need Diverse Books, and is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old, as well as the cohost of the writing podcast, Deadline City. She writes romance novels as Zoey Castile. Zoraida was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and calls New York City home. When she’s not working, she’s roaming the world in search of magical stories. For more information, visit her at zoraidacordova.com.