Many, many moons ago I saw the announcement for this book and stars bloomed into my eyes! A Mayan mythological extravaganza set in 1920s Mexico! I was overly excited but I also agonized over the fact that I would have to wait so long for it to finally fall into my hands.
And here we are today. (Well I actually read it about a week ago) But today is the day the review is actually going up!
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Pub Date: July 23rd, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey
Price: $35.00 CAD
The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.
Casiopea has to be the most raw, daring and incredibly real character I have ever read. As much as I like to believe that I find all characters believable there is always something inexplicably fictional about them that prevents that wholehearted belief, but there was something different about Casiopea. Reading about her felt trans-formative to the point where I was her at one point. And perhaps this is all credit to Moreno-Garcia’s talent for writing because I 100% felt like I was in Mexico during the 20s living her life. That being said Casiopea was an angry, adventure-seeking, weary, courageous and witty character. I loved everything about her, from her bone-deep resentment of her family situation to her free-spirited, no shit-taking confidence. She was as about dynamic as one could get, constantly re-evaluating herself, the life she has lived, the one she is living and the one she dreams to live. Her coming-of-age story is an unforgettable one no doubt.
Hun-Kamé, Lord of Xibalba is most definitely my second favourite character of this whole lot! Moreno-Garcia’s take on the personality of a this Mayan god is definitely similar to what I pictured, but then she gave it that twist. That gut-wrenching twist that brings down the stoic, distant divine figure and like Casiopea makes him far much more real and tangible. He goes through quite a journey and transformation too which, alongside Casiopea’s, means that things get dangerous, murky and most certainly bloody.
Other characters…Should I mention Martín? Must I mention him? Is he worth my mention? He is not. He shouldn’t even really be in the “like” section. But I will say that I loved that Moreno-Garcia explored his mind too and the inner workings of his deep-set tyranny.
Mexico in the 20s was a wild time, as I’m sure it was elsewhere in the world. There was the inconsequential influence of American and European trends and fashion, but there was also the already established Mexican way of life. There was the once non-disputed authority of the Church being challenged by the state. There was (and still is the) colourism and racism manifested within the people separating neighbour from neighbour and family member from family member. All of which were touched upon in this amazing novel.
I loved that we got to see how starkly different life could be in different places of the time. There was the tiny, suffocating, strict streets of the pueblo. Then there was the fun yet dangerous paths of Mexico City. We even get to the flashy, high life of America for a bit.
But the best part had to be the Underworld. It just was. Trust me. It is a haunting type of beauty that really had me wanting to go there while simultaneously never, ever wanting to go there.
There is just something about Moreno-Garcia’s prose that always gets me. Maybe it’s the information that she sneaks in here and there that enriches the story’s detail. Maybe it’s the wittiness of her characters that always had me cracking up. Maybe its the way that she most definitely made this feel like a fairy tale and yet still the most serious tale ever told. I don’t know what it is and I’m not making any sense so it leaves only one logical answer: magic. It’s magic.
There is a great amount of adventure to be had. It does have a quest narrative after all! The stakes are high, the challenges are messy, there is more than one Mayan god of death so you can definitely plan on some havoc coming from them! The action and intensity were perfect. The pacing was just right, speeding up when we needed to move and slowing down when we needed those sweet moments! And it’s chalked full of myth and legend, with a glossary at the back so you don’t get lost at any point in turn!
THE DIVINE INTERVENTION PLOT. THIS BOOK IS THE EMBODIMENT OF THAT PLOT. YOU GUYS KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE IT WHEN THE GODS COME OUT TO PLAY AND MESS UP EVERYTHING. It is truly wonderful.
There was a slow burn romance that literally tore me to pieces. And that’s all I’ll say on that.
And the ending. The ending. The ending. The ending. T H E E N D I N G.
There are no questions to be had. The book is amazing.
Overall, I loved this book. It lived up to my very high standards and I think it shattered them. If you are one who gravitates towards historical fiction, this is for you. If you love fantasy, this book is for you. If you love fairy tales, then this is for you! If you want an incredibly well-written story with incredibly complex characters that is also full of danger, suspense and magic, then this is the book for you!!!!!!
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend?: Of course I do!
Let me know what you think! Have you had the chance to read this one yet? Are looking forward to picking it up? Did I convince you to pick it up today? Please read this book.