Monday, 13 February 2017

Review Time! - Santa Muerte by Lucina Stone

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Title: Santa MuerteSanta Muerte book cover

Author: Lucina Stone

Genre: New Adult/NA, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Witches, Vampires*, Werewolves*, Historical Fiction* (*ish)

Series: The Daniela Story #1

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author, Lucina Stone, who I'm in contact with on Twitter.

This does not affect the content of my review; my review is fair and honest.

I agreed to read this with only the vaguest of notions of what it was about - I had read Naz @ Read Diverse Books' review of it, but had mostly forgotten about it by the time Lucina Stone contacted me.

I definitely didn't realise that it was urban fantasy - so that was a pleasant surprise!

I love urban fantasy - a subgenre of paranormal which involves magical-type-people (witches, vampires, etc.) faffing about in cities and/or towns in which they have their own societies (sometimes open to human society, sometimes hidden.)

It's strange, really, since I don't like cities in general - too much of a rural kind of girl. *shrugs* But there you have it.


Turns out there's more to Daniela's family than she thought there was.

In the year 2030, Daniela sees no end to the pain. Depressed and hurt by an abusive relationship, she tries to take her own life...

...and wakes up somewhere strange.

This can't be happening. She can't be in the 1920s... right?

Dani doesn't get this time period, has no idea about magic, and, with a farm-girl named Daphne in tow, is being chased by a bunch of people who want her dead - or at least in jail.

All she wants is to go home to her mothers, but that seems almost impossible from here...

Best bits:

I love the chatty tone of this book. Stone grabs hold of you and says, 'come on guys, this way!' Which is spot on.

And the time travel element is well done! DID YOU HEAR THAT???? THE TIME TRAVEL ELEMENT IS WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!

Too often, time travel gets unnecessarily messy, or even just plain naff, but not here.

Here we have the reality of suddenly finding yourself in a world full of racism and rigid gender rules (Daniela ends up posing as a dude because of her short hair and trousers.)

And it's an element which is missing from your average time travel plot: the day-to-day-ness of living in that period, especially as a person of colour (PoC) in the USA.

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I liked the Mexican variations on the stalwarts of urban fantasy.

All of the different species of the paranormal and urban fantasy worlds - vamps, wolves, witches, etc. are removed from their White European stereotypes and instead seen through the lens of Mexican folklore.

Most notably we have the brujas - the Mexican witches - who are written with skill and intrigue, and are far removed from the average urban fantasy witch-chick (who is normally a white goth-girl and/or biker-chick.)

The depression representation is good overall, devastatingly realistic as a whole - but I did have a minor issue with it, which I'll write about in the next section.

The sense of hopelessness and worthlessness depicted is accurate and heart-breaking, and Daniela doesn't magically get better the moment she ends up in 1923, meaning it's not treated as just a plot point.

And we get a same-sex, lesbian, parenting couple - which is awesome.

Not so great bits:

First thing, as ever, is first, here's the potentially distressing content from this book (hold on, there's some stuff to get through):
  • depression
  • attempted suicide
  • suicidal thoughts
  • hanging
  • abusive relationships
  • low self-worth/self-esteem
  • racism
  • racial slurs (including the 'n' word)
  • the KKK
  • lynching
  • segregation and discrimination
  • sexual abuse
  • child abuse
  • sexual assault
  • rape
  • torture
  • kidnapping
  • burning (as a form of torture)
  • attempted murder
  • homophobia
  • grave-robbing
  • missing persons investigation

I think that's everything - v. sorry if I've missed anything out.

There's swearing and violence; if you can handle all the other stuff though... *shrugs*

At one point, the phrase totem pole is used in as a metaphor in a non-native setting, which is seen as cultural appropriation, affecting some First Nations tribes (this piece by Robin R R Gray explains more.)

It was only once, but was still disappointing, and I hope won't occur again in future books.

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Also, and this one is more of a personal preference, the relationship between Dani's mothers is referred to as a lifestyle. I don't like this.

I'm aware that a lot of LGBTQ+ people are ok with it (especially from older generations,) but I am personally not a big fan of the term.

But then, a lot of LGBTQ+ people find the term queer very offensive, but I personally identify as both sexually fluid and queer.

I guess you just have to understand that some people will be offended by both of these terms, and you need to examine how and why AND WHETHER YOU SHOULD use them in any given context.

Occasionally it felt like the representation of Daniela's depression was a little bit hit-and-miss, simply because at the times when it wasn't affecting her so much it was almost as if it didn't matter any more.

Honestly though, the representation of depression was, overall, heartbreakingly affective.


This is a great book - a strong foundation for the series, with great characters and interesting paranormal elements.

If you're an urban fantasy fan, this is a must. But those not so familiar with the genre will love it too.

UPDATE 22nd APRIL 2017:

A couple of people have raised issues with the lesbian and depression representation in this book, as well as a few other matters. Some people have equated Dani's lesbian mother having sex with a man with biphobia.

I personally don't agree with the lesbian rep/biphobia criticism - because if anyone knows that sexuality is fluid, it's yours truly. But I see the validity of the points made.

For an overview of the issues that some people have with this book, see C T Callahan's Goodreads review.

I do find C T Callahan more than a little harsh on this book, but you guys all know that I believe in having all the cards on the table so that you can make up your own minds.

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  1. I think I'd forgotten that it was a time travel book too! I added it to my list after Naz's review too. I love time travel! And this would be the second 1920s fantasy book with girls of color that I'll have read this year, which is an awesome genre. (The other is Iron Cast. Much recommended.)

    1. I always internally groan when I come across time travel, because I've seen it done poorly *so* many times - but this is done well!!!!!! XD

      Iron Cast looks interesting, but seems to have a lot to do with bleeding...? I'm quite squeamish when it comes to certain things (which you probably wouldn't guess from the amount of vampires and violent books on this blog, but that doesn't seem to bother me as much somehow,) so I've been a bit hesitant to add it to my TBR.

  2. The time travel element being done well impresses me a whole lot as well! That goes wrong so many times. And the Mexican element to things as well sounds pretty cool. That does sound like a long list of trigger points, but I don't have a personal qualm with any of them. And as I'd be ready, then I'm sure I could read this one!

    1. It's an amazing book! I even included it on my top 7 list from 2016 - it's awesome! And yeah, it tackles some tough issues - so I figured it'd be best to warn people.


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