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 back.
I was provided an Audiobook Listening Copy by Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.
A few years ago, I read a brilliant witch-themed anthology called Toil & Trouble edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe. Though the anthology is filled with gems of witchy stories from a feminist lens, a story that stuck out to me was a story called Divine are the Stars, about a girl who returns home to visit her dying grandmother. By chance, years later, I decided to pick up The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Cordova – because an adult fantasy about family and mystery and magic? I was immediately intrigued.
But, the more I read The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, I felt like this book was really familiar – and then I realised, I had read this story before, but as a short story. I eventually figured out that The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is a full-length novel of Cordova’s short story in Toil & Trouble. While Divine are the Stars was magnetic in its rich and fascinating idea, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina elevates the short story version, giving us a realised piece of storytelling with complicated characters without losing any sense of mystery, magic, and intrigue. So I am delighted that we now have The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina and that Cordova got to tell the story that she wanted to tell – because what a remarkable story it is.
Told in alternating storylines between the past and the present, the story follows Marimar and her cousins, grandchildren of Orquídea Divina, who have been summoned back to their home for her own funeral, and Orquídea Divina’s journey from childhood to adulthood, the devastating choices that she made, what she had to leave behind, and the consequences of her decision that will affect her family forever more. As the Montoya grandchildren face a mysterious threat, they journey to Ecuador, where it all started, and have to uncover the mysteries and secrets of their grandmother’s life.
Within the first arc of the book when Orquídea’s family come together to see their grandmother off and she transforms into a tree, leaving her grandchildren with a seed and a magical gift, I was instantly in love. I loved the writing in The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. The storytelling was truly a marvel; magical, dreamy, and so undeniably compelling that you’ll be pulled right in from the very first chapter. The magical realism in the book makes you feel like the world is old and unknowable; that there are so much magic, so many stories in the world, and that mystery makes the world beautiful.
I enjoyed that the central mystery of this book wasn’t something external to the characters. Rather, the central mystery of this book is Orquídeaherself. How did she become the person and enigma that she was? What powers and magic did she possess? And, importantly, why was she the woman that she was? Furthermore, while Orquídea’s narration is strong on its own, it is Marimar’s narration that gives the wider story depth. While Marimar lives her life away from her family and grandmother, Marimar’s journey is intrinsically tied to Orquídea’s. Marimar’s story isn’t just about finding and stopping this threat, it’s also about understanding her grandmother whom she loves deeply but also resents for the mysterious death of her mother.
At its heart, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an intergenerational family story, wherein readers seek to understand Orquídea and the mystery of her life. This story reminded me that, although we see our family members as their relation to us, we can sometimes forget that our family, especially those much older, have lived full lives – that we, as their grandchildren are simply a small snippet of their lives that may be filled with joy, pain, fulfillment, regret, and everything in between.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is truly a gorgeous and wildly beautiful story, one that will sweep you away and take you on a wondrous and emotional story until the very end. I was utterly enchanted by The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, and looked forward to reading it every single day. I loved Cordova’s foray into adult fantasy, and I truly cannot wait to see what she writes next.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Years after the death of their grandmother, grandchildren of Orquídea search for answers as a mysterious threat slowly kills their family.
Perfect for: Readers who love contemporary fantasies, readers who like stories about family, readers who like character-driven stories.
Think twice if: Readers who find it difficult to suspend disbelief or stories with fantastical elements.
Genre: adult contemporary/historical fiction fantasy
Trigger/content warning: murder, death, fantasy body horror, arson, parental neglect and abuse