Welcome to my review of Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, one of the authors I want to read more of. Expect lots of gushing over this 1920s Mayan mythology infused fantasy!
➸ historical fantasy
➸ published in 2019
➸ content warnings: blood, suicide, animal death, misogyny, bullying, domestic abuse
☆ ATMOSPHERE: 5
☆ WRITING STYLE: 4
☆ PACING: 4
☆ CHARACTERS: 5
☆ PLOT: 5
☆ ENJOYABILITY: 5
☆ INSIGHTFULNESS: 5
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.
“Words are seeds, Casiopea. With words you embroider narratives, and the narratives breed myths, and there’s power in the myth. Yes, the things you name have power.”
I’m writing this about 3 weeks after reading it because a) I just haven’t had much time to get around to it and b) every time I’ve sat down to write a review the words to describe it have escaped me. There’s an elusive quality about it that I can’t eloquently put into words. It may very well be what Silvia Moreno-Garcia wrote about on the use of telling not showing, to invoke the mythical tone of the story and represent the culture. The writing style and pacing can be hard to appreciate at first, but I grew to love the charming and fluid style that read like it’s own fairy tale.
Moreno-Garcia didn’t just include Mayan mythology, but also an enticing 1920s Mexican backdrop. The inclusion of Mexican culture was everything I wanted from Mexican Gothic and more! You can map the immersive journey through real parts of Mexico, like Yucatan and Mexico City, and share Casiopea’s wonder at the new sights. Even with the historical atmosphere, the story feels refreshing and contemporary. The plot, at least at the start, wasn’t completely inventive, but the last half of the book was packed with tension and passion and danger.
“Is that why you stare at the stars?” he asked. “Are you searching for beauty or dreaming with your eyes wide open?”
Casiopea’s vibrant daydreams and hopefulness armed her against the very real destructive forces of her life, like her grandfather and cousin. Deep-rooted resentment could have created a spiteful creature, and justifiably so, but Casiopea rose above that. The same couldn’t be said for the godly brothers though, and it was fascinating to see the contrast and parallels between Casiopea and her cousin, and Hun-Kamé and his brother. Although some characters were clearly heroes and villains, we got to see different sides to everyone. Martin was forced to confront his insecurities and Hun-Kamé realised the poor treatment of his brother. One character I wish we could have seen more of was the lovable demon Loray! I would totally read a sequel with adventures of him and Casiopea.
“The imagination of mortals shaped the gods, carving their faces and their myriad forms, just as the water molds the stones in its path, wearing them down through the centuries.”
The contrast between mortals and gods was explored too. Hun-Kamé was irresistibly mysterious and brooding, but Casiopea refused to be treated as inferior just because she was mortal and constantly defied the obedient character her family had expected her to be. I loved their interactions and subtle, yearning kind of ‘star-crossed lovers’ relationship, yet the ending subverted my expectations. It was twisty and bittersweet but I would have felt cheated by a wholly happy conclusion when the stakes were so high.
Thanks for reading, I definitely didn’t do Gods of Jade and Shadow justice, but at least you got to see my love for this book!
Goodreads ♦ Bookstagram ♦ Ko-fi ♦ two months free on Scribd!
This is genuinely one of my fave books so I’m really glad to see you enjoyed it too!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m so thrilled you loved this! It’s high on my TBR. I love the quotes you shared!
I hope you enjoy it when you get to it! 😊