"The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina," Reviewed by Donovan Hill
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina was written by Zoriada Córdova. She is Ecuadorian-American, and lives in New York City. She has authored more than a dozen novels, several short stories, and writes romance novels under the pseudonym Zoey Castille. She has even written several stories that have taken place in the Star Wars universe. She currently serves on the board of We Need Diverse Books, an organization that promotes different aspects of diversity in the editing and publishing industry.
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is about descendants of the titular character, Orquídea Divina, who have been called to Orquídea’s home when she is on her deathbed. This setup is used to show off a number of interesting things about Orquídea’s character, such as the fact that her home seems to reside on land that Orquídea seems to command; Orquídea was seen as witch-like by all of her neighbors. It creates a kind of bizarre atmosphere that only increases as Orquídea reveals herself to her family, as she has living plants emerging from her body. The front page of the novel hints to this in its own way, showing a young woman with plants bursting out of every part of her body, while still seeming completely at peace.
This is a story that very much relies on the surreal. There are fantastical elements in the story, somewhat reminiscent of that of a Tolkien novel, especially as you move further and further back into Orquídea’s life. Where the uncanny enters is that all the characters in the novel, including the main character Marimar, who hadn’t had direct confrontation with the supernatural up until this point, take the whole thing in stride. The paranormal events are treated as somewhat mundane by all, which creates a sort of uncanny valley kind of tone. The one person who questions this outright earlier in the book is painted as a self-righteous person who cannot be bothered to care for anyone but themselves. The events in the book only get stranger and stranger as things go on, but the characters seem to be far more interested in unraveling the story of their mystifying grandmother Orquídea than in the magical means by which they work to unravel those secrets. This works well to drag the reader into the family’s mindset as well. By the end of the story, I, like the characters, barely batted an eye when the unexplainable occurred; as fantastical as those elements were, they didn’t hold a candle to the satisfaction I felt when another piece of Orquídea’s early life was shown to me. That being said, it’s important to mention Orquídea’s backstory is not for the faint of heart. There are certain scenes in her childhood in which she faced abuse at the hands of her mother. Consider this a sensitivity warning.
Orquídea’s descendants are a whole other story. The book mainly focuses on two of them, Rey and Marimar. Rey is an interesting character. He grew up in the same area as Orquídea, a place shown not to be very accepting to people who are different. Despite this, Rey is proudly gay, and never once shies away from it, no matter who tries to discriminate against him for it. Rey carries this sureness of who he is into almost every aspect of his life, as such he is able to meet almost any situation with a smug smile and words seeping with dry wit. I genuinely loved him, and it was a real highlight anytime he graced the page. One of the best moments with him, which encapsulates this purposely, comes when the family first sees the trees growing from Orquídea’s body. Rey, after taking a moment to help Orquídea get settled, goes promptly to the bar to drink away the craziness before his eyes. It's little moments like this that make him incredibly fun to read.
Marimar is a bit different. When I first saw her, I knew that she was something special, but wasn’t able to put my finger on why. That particular question is only answered near the end of the story. She carries with her a sense of calm that really permeates the whole story. A major scene that comes to mind is when Marimar finds a flower growing from her throat, similar to the roots that had come upon her grandmother shortly before her death. Rather than immediately trying to rip it out or screaming, she opts to cover it with a scarf and go about her life. She is also one of the only ones in her family who take her grandmother’s mysterious advice seriously. I cannot go too deep into what this advice is, as it would ruin the mystique of the story for any first time readers.
Speaking of ruining the story’s mystique, it is time to talk about the one major critique I do have for this story, the ending. I will attempt not to be incredibly explicit, as I do not want to spoil the book for those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading it. That being said, the last quarter of the book takes a strange turn, even for this incredibly surreal novel. This twist has to do with Orquídea’s time in the circus, which in of itself was an incredibly well-written plot line. This surprise is nearly impossible to see coming, and it plays into a major moment at the end of the novel involving Marimar, that again I do not want to ruin. I absolutely did not hate this twist; I was just extremely thrown for a loop. It made what happened next very difficult to focus on. Although, I think that is part of this book’s identity.
Overall, the novel is an intense ride. It’s quite easy to get lost in its pages, beneath the mystery of this strange world so similar and yet so different to our own. That’s why I’d seriously recommend it to any fan of mystery. Fans of the paranormal will have a great time too, but beware: the fantastical will often take a backseat to the human drama underneath.
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
Simon & Schuster
Donovan Hill is a writer from Orlando, Florida. They specifically have a passion for science fiction and fantasy, usually searching for those kinds of stories whenever reading for pleasure.