Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Updated: Feb 8
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. 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.
Oh, this book and how much I enjoyed reading it. The Mayan culture and the kind-hearted main character and the sassiness of the Lord of Xibalba! It is so good. Please, please pick it up.
This was the first time that I read anything by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and I has really impressed with the writing style of this author, in specific with the way she brings colours and surroundings to life.
From a Cinderella retelling in the first pages to a full-on identity journey to a unique ending, this book was really hard to put down. Although for some the Mexican/Mayan terms used may be a let-down.
SPOILERS ahead, be warned that this is a spoilery review.
Casiopea Tun is the most interesting main character that I read this year- fight me. I cannot tell you how long I had been waiting for a female character that has emotions, that cries! But that is still strong. And kind. And can forgive others with logic and not because their but is well-shaped. I know, how dare I to not love badass female characters? Well I do. But I am tired of seeing it done over and over again.
This girl is on fire. She leaves her home. She goes on the adventure she wants to go, because she wants to go! And she cries when her hair is cut and, SURPRISE, no-one cares too much about it. It was amazing- because cutting hair is only a big deal for the person in question if you didn't know - and she is smart and witty and also vulnerable as a human being. Perfection.
Because I am exploring the characters, let’s discover Hun-Kamé. The death God of Mayan mythology. The, in my gracious opinion, best partner for our MC. He is such an interesting addition to the story mostly because of the duality that he represents- humanity vs Goddess. He is the one that I believe has the most, if we can call it that, character growth.
Not only because of his growing humanity but also because of the ending of his character arc- the forgiveness of his brother.
Martin is another character that I wanted to discuss- although ALL the characters in this book experience superb growth- because I believe he deserves a little attention. I mean he goes from spoiled kid to understanding family and privilege. He truly humbles himself and I do believe it is one, if not the best, depiction of a hated character to a sorry-ass in a novel I read in the last months.
"Casiopea lay on the ground until her heart had regained its regular rhythm. Then she stood up and began walking again".
About the pacing of the book I can say that I was a little hard for me to join in. I found that the first chapters where quite slow in comparison with the rest of the book. Well, slow is not the right word. Because in truth the pacing of this book is consistent. But the first pages are boring. That is it. You don´t care too much about it. Until the thing happens- and you know what - after that the whole plot opens up and how happy was I.
This novel is just pure beauty. From the amazing cover- yes, I love it - to the colourful…everything! It is, indeed, a book full of things to see which makes it incredibly immersive, not only in the Mexican country side but also in the 1920´s Jazz age.
Look, I am really trying to find a bad point in this book but it is just so good. So fun. So unique. Apart from maybe the glossary at the back and the need to sometimes check it out nothing made me not turn the page.
Don´t even get me started on the slow burn romance. On how they go from friends to maybe in love in such a slow pace that killed me! and that ending. Oh MY GOD that ending was so bitter-sweet and I adored it.
The sacrifice theme we get throughout the book and the hidden message of blurring the lines between death and humanity and how death and devotion are such important things for these characters, it is so – can I use the word good again? - amazingly well done. It is not too pretentious and it definitely feels like a natural progression to the end.
Now the end. I can say that this was my favourite end out of the possibilities. Although I spent the book thinking that I had no idea how it would play out - was he going to become human? Was she dying? Were they gonna be together? Can they? Are they going to success? And if they do, than want about her? – I was hooked for it!
"The stars, when traced by the human eye, formed constellations, and the flowers, linked together, spoke to her. They said, "My love."
But the actually ending was brutal. It was raw and human and WOW. Not only the race part that made me believe and then be sad and then just give up and then she…she was smarter. She outrun Martin because of her kindness and intelligence. AGAIN, I love her. Most modern female characters would be relying on their strength or how fast they run. And that was not the case here.
But the jewel in the crown was their goodbye. And how she came to accept that he wasn't human. And that she was. And what meant. Also, that part where she went back to their room and his clothes where in the wardrobe…sad days.
I found it humours and very wholesome to read. and sometimes scary and creepy. I was actually caring for the MC in the end but not just for her. Also for Hum-Kamé and their maybe love. Even for Martin. I was afraid for Martin! And that is because the characters are the glow of the novel. The grey morality is within such fuzzy limits that I ended up caring for every one of them because none was perfect. They all made mistakes. And that made them relatable.
I HAVE NO IDEA why this book doesn't have more praise and fame. It is, clearly for me, one of those book that people remember because it is so unique. Just the way the author talks about family, how she talks about greed and ignorance… the whole "my brother´s killed me plotline.
Please, please pick it up?
Rating: 5/5 (Goodreads)