God of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Publication date: 23 July 2019
Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
God of Jade and Shadow caught my eye when it released last July — I mean, look at that cover! Being buried under a pile of books — as per usual — I never got the chance to look into it until I asked a friend about books featuring Mexican mythology. She recommended this book and I snapped it up, once again proving that I have amazing friends with great taste in books. I can’t believe I had nearly let Gods of Jade and Shadow pass me by!
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.
There is a lot to love about Gods of Jade and Shadow, however I think the beautiful world building and writing are among my favourites. Moreno-Garcia paints a vibrant picture of each area in 1920’s Mexico Casiopea visits, bringing to life one of the most fascinating periods in history with a fantasy twist. I absolutely loved the real and underworld settings — her combination of fiction and reality are fantastically done and so wonderfully vivid. Although the book was a little slow to start for me, the imagery kept me invested in the tale until things picked up. The book reads like a fairy tale with creepy ghosts, fierce maidens, and mysterious lands, and they’re beautifully described.
Casiopea is an incredible character, especially for a woman in a fairy tale-like book. She has so much fire and fierceness, but she also has so much agency. Throughout the book she is asked to make important decisions and make sacrifices on Hun-Kame’s behalf and she makes the decision for herself — he cannot force her hand or coerce her. She is one of the most wonderfully active women I’ve ever read in a fantasy book and I totally fell in love with her fiery personality, her hopes and dreams for a better life, and her wonderfully complex characterisation. However, I did have a detachment to all the other characters in the book, most notably the God of Death himself Hun-Kame. While so much heart and soul was poured into Casiopea, I felt like the others were a little less vivid and memorable, and I would have loved to see the secondary characters stand out a bit more.
I adored the additions of the Mayan and Mexican mythology in this book. I’m not familiar with these mythologies, however having finished this book I desperately want to learn more. The concept of the underworld, the gods, the rituals and traditions, all of these things were new and fascinating to me and I feel like this book has opened up a whole new world of folklore for me!
Gods of Jade and Shadow is a great read, despite the slower start and lack of standout secondary characters. A beautiful, historical fairy tale, Gods of Jade and Shadow will ignite your imagination.
Want to pick up a copy of Gods of Jade and Shadow? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):