Review: Gods Of Jade and Shadow

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.

Gods of Jade and Shadow was everything I didn’t know I needed in a novel. It is purely sensational from beginning to end.

This fairytale is dark, moving, heartbreaking, honest, and so many other words that listing them would make words lose meaning.

This was a refreshing fantasy to enter into, one who’s background I knew (and still know) little about. The narrative is bright and colorful at times, just like it’s cover, and at times bleak and dark as the underworld as we imagine it. Silvia Moreno-Garcia strikes a balance between breaking our hearts and putting them back together.

The journey of the novel takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of Mexico during the Jazz Age – and it certainly is a whirlwind. Luckily for us, it’s just as much a whirlwind for Casiopea, who had never left her tiny town until she accidentally frees the spirit of a Mayan God of Death – Hun-Kamé. We get bite sized looks at amazing and varied locations as they travel on a path that will ultimately lead back to the God of Death’s home. The attention to detail in the descriptions leads to vivid imagery and vibrant world building. I could imagine sights and scents and heat as I traveled through this book.

Casiopea is a fascinating character to follow. She ranges from a wise, kind, and just woman to a bitter, childish, and temperamental girl. It doesn’t ever feel like a contradiction when her reactions shift, it feels honest. Casiopea gets to the heart of being an eighteen year old young woman who has been dealt a hand that would callous most. It makes it easy to sympathise when she reacts bitterly to something. It also makes it miraculous when she reacts with such unselfish caring. This is a character that makes you want to be better, makes you want to be as much a hero as she is. Our desire to be better is reflected in Hun-Kamé’s arc throughout the novel. She changes his life just as much as he changes hers.

This novel is steeped in Mayan culture and folklore, but Moreno-Garcia makes it easy to engage with for someone with no background in the culture. It’s accessible and in that it becomes familiar. I can easily see the way traditions and mythic quests and folklore connect us all, even if the these traditions and folklore are wildly different – and this is a lesson I think more people in the world could use.

I couldn’t rate this novel anything lower than 5 stars. Colorful, engaging, and heartbreaking, Gods of Jade and Shadow needs to be on everyone’s must read list.

About the Author

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of the year by BookRiot, Tordotcom, BuzzFeed, io9, and more; Certain Dark Things, one of NPR’s best books of the year and a Publishers Weekly top ten; the fantasy of manners The Beautiful Ones; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Gods of Jade and Shadow is her latest novel.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Website

Thank you to Del Rey for the ARC copy for review.

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