Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza by Laekan Zea Kemp and I’m excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes with you today!
Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 27 September 2022
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Rep: Chicane, Mexican, Latinx
Fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears, and Disney’s Encanto will be captivated by this fantastical novel about a girl who must learn to trust her ancestral powers when she comes face-to-face with the Mexican legend La Lechuza.
Omega Morales’s family has been practicing magic for centuries in Noche Buena. But over the years, the town’s reputation for the supernatural is no longer one the people carry with pride. So Omega’s family keeps to themselves, and in private, they’re Empaths—diviners who can read and manipulate the emotions of people and objects around them. But Omega’s powers don’t quite work, and it leaves her feeling like an outsider in her own family.
When a witch with the power to transform herself into an owl—known in Mexican folklore as La Lechuza—shows up unannounced, Omega, her best friend Clau (who happens to be a ghost), and her cousin Carlitos must conduct a séance under a full moon in order to unravel the mystery of the legend.
Suddenly Omega’s magic begins to change, and the key to understanding her powers is more complicated than she thought. Omega will have to decide what’s more important—trusting the instincts of others or learning to trust in herself.
⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
Bullying and grief
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: It’s been a minute since I’ve read an MG fantasy but when I saw Laekan Zea Kemp wrote this one, I knew I wanted to read it immediately. There’s honestly so much to love about Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza. From the myth/lore to the intergenerational magical family you want to be part of, the spooky Halloween vibes, the themes of grief and loss, and love and hate, and the fantastic characters who you can’t help but root for, once I had the chance to sit down with it, I didn’t want to stop reading. There’s a lot for all readers to take away from this magical adventure-filled story and I’m hoping that the author will create a series with Omega, Carlitos and Clau because I loved this terrific trio so much!
“…the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Stories are truth, Omega. If you know how to tell the truth, you know how to tell a story.”
The story is set in the town of Noche Buena and the small town’s spooky autumn vibes were in full swing! I’m not much of a spooky reader and I know this is MG so I wasn’t sure how spooky it would get but the imagery that the author brings to life definitely resulted in some spine-tingling goosebumps. I can still picture some of the scarier moments with gleaming smiles full of sharp teeth in the dark and the twisted bitter faces emerging at the window! As I knew I would, I really enjoyed Zea Kemp’s writing—it’s engaging, well-paced and such a joy to read, plus I love the way she infuses the richness of Mexican/Chicane/Latinx culture so seamlessly in the story and the characters’ lives.
“Not every stranger is a monster and not every monster is a stranger. Remember that, mija.”
My favourite aspect of this story was the mystery and myth of La Lechuza! It was creepy and horrific but the truth of it was also heartbreaking. I appreciated the way the author tackled themes of coping with grief and loss, as well as love and hate and the extremes of emotions, in general, but this was also a story about finding your place in the family and finding acceptance in yourself. All of this was woven so well into the heart of the La Lechuza myth and it made me love the story even more. The empath magic of the Morales family was also really cool! I don’t think I’ve read a story before with this type of magic but I found it fascinating. It was so easy to picture each scene and bonus points because this story has several illustrations that only serve to bring the story more to life!
“I look at my strange, magical family, at our skin the color of the land, at our language and rituals and touchstones to the past, and I see love. Big and loud and taking up every inch of space.”
Omega was a fantastic character! She’s part of a family who is entirely made of magic while she’s only half-magical because her Papi is a non-magical human. She struggles with accepting that her grip on magic is so weak compared to the rest of the Morales and that she has so little control over what she can and can’t do with her empathic powers. While she doesn’t feel like a good enough bruja in comparison to the rest of her family, she also has to deal with bullying from her former best friend, Abby and the rest of her mean girl gang. I loved how the author showed the different ways that people can cope with grief and loss through Abby, whose loss took the form of hatred towards others, and her brother Aiden, who continued to honour their mum’s memory through kindness and love. It was so satisfying to see Omega learn how to utilise her magic and learn to accept that despite maybe not having that innate talent for magic, she’s still powerful and special.
“What?” I practically yell so loud that everyone in line waiting for the bathroom turns around to look at us. When they turn back around, I whisper, “I do not like Aiden.”
Carlitos rolls his eyes. “It’s coming off you stronger than the smell of hot garbage.”
In addition to Omega, we have her cousin, Carlitos and her ghost bestie, Clau who form the main trio solving the mystery of La Lechuza. Although the story is told solely from Omega’s perspective, Carlitos and Clau were well-formed multi-dimensional characters. I loved Carlitos so much! On the outside, he’s the brilliant but carefree joker of the family, especially when it comes to interacting with others in their town but there’s so much more depth to his character and my heart went out to him. I wanted to give him and Omega huge hugs because they both deserve so much more! The same goes for Clau, who we don’t know much about initially but more is revealed as the story progresses and I loved the slight mystery aspect of her arc. While this MG doesn’t suffer from the typical trope of missing/absent/dead parents or family, I do feel like the adult characters were a little less well developed in comparison to the kids but I still enjoyed the roles that the adults, especially Soona (who is wickedly cool) and Omega’s mum and Abuelita, played in the story. It definitely shows that adults aren’t infallible but that it’s okay, as long as we strive to learn from them and grow to do better and be kinder to others and ourselves.
“Fear has a way of turning people into monsters. But the good news is that you can unlearn it. […] Things may change at a snail’s pace but I believe we’ll eventually get there […] because fear is not sustainable. […] because hate needs to feed and if it’s not feeding on others, it’s feeding on you.”
Overall, this was a superb read that I would recommend to all readers who love mischievous magical (spooky) adventures, learning about different cultures’ legends and lore, and stories about the power of love, acceptance and family. The empath magic is fantastic and the comp to Encanto is absolutely spot on!
Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. Her debut novel, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet was a 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Recipient. In addition to writing she’s also the creator and host of the Author Pep Talks podcast, as well as a contributor to the Las Musas podcast. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicane grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health.
Have you read Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza or is it on your TBR?