Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Del Rey (July 23, 2019)
Length: 352 pages
I’ve become a huge fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia in recent years, with books like Certain Dark Things and The Beautiful Ones. I just love her imagination and vision, and so when I first heard about her new book set in the Jazz Age, my curiosity was immediately piqued. Then I found out that it was going to be a fairy tale-like story steeped in Mayan mythology, and I was officially excited!
Gods of Jade and Shadow takes place in a small town in southern Mexico in the 1920s, following young Casiopea Tun who spends her days working as a servant at her wealthy grandfather’s estate. Between running her tedious errands and being tormented by her infuriating cousin Martin, Casiopea has about had enough with the status quo around the place. Dreaming of one day leaving her rural little town and tired of being ordered around, she decides to break the rules and open the wooden chest in her grandfather’s room that he keeps locked up at all times. Expecting the old man to have squirreled away gold or something equally valuable, Casiopea is instead surprised to crack open the box and find a dusty pile of bones.
But little did she know, she had just freed the spirit of Hun-Kame, the Mayan God of Death, from his prison. He informs Casiopea that he was a victim of treachery from his own twin brother, who killed him years ago and trapped his spirit in a locked box with the help of her grandfather. Now Hun-Kame is determined to take back his throne, but to do that, he’ll need help. To Casiopea, he makes an offer to make all her dreams come true, if she would agree to accompany him on his journey across Mexico to gather his resources and enact his revenge. Even though the costs of failure are high and the road ahead is unknown, Casiopea agrees after only a slight reluctance for she knows this is her chance to see the world. Not that she has much of a choice. Thanks to a small shard of Hun-Kame’s bone embedded in her skin, their two fates have become inextricably linked.
And so, a peasant girl and a Mayan god embark on a road trip across the country. And yes, this is as fun as it sounds. I loved traveling to new places experiencing the sights and sounds, meeting all manner of vibrant characters, both earthly and supernatural. The easy and smooth style of the writing also made the time period come to life on the page so that you could practically feel the energy in the air and in the bustling crowds around you, or see the colors of the clothing people are wearing and smell the food scents wafting in the breeze. Moreno-Garcia is just so good at transporting her readers to new times and places, which is why I love her books.
I also enjoyed the dynamic between Casiopea and Hun-Kame. She’s a simple girl from a simple village, he’s a death lord of Xibalba, and you think to yourself, heck, this will either be a train wreck or totally awesome. Happily, it was the latter. Considering how many things could have gone wrong with this premise and all its moving parts, it’s even more impressive how the author has managed to bring it all together. Casiopea is a delightful protagonist, innocent in her youthfulness and sheltered life but definitely not fragile. She’s a force to be reckoned with, holding her own against a proud and broody god who doesn’t always seem to know what to make of his traveling companion. Compared to everything Casiopea has had to go through, poor cousin Martin didn’t even stand a chance, despite the lengths he goes to try and stop her and Hun-Kame.
There’s really not that much more left to say, not only because I think I’ve made my love for this book clear, but also because I don’t want to spill any more of the story’s secrets. I had high hopes Gods of Jade and Shadow and Silvia Moreno-Garcia surely did not disappoint, her creativity and writing talents as ever phenomenal. Dazzling, evocative and passionate, this novel is definitely best experienced firsthand, so if you’re a fan of irresistible characters, grand adventures, and mythological fantasy, don’t wait to pick this one up.