The Jazz Age of Mexico. Road trips across the country. An unexpected romance. Gods, demons, ghosts and spirits. This book has it all and more! Set in 1927 Mexico, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Gods of Jade and Shadow” follows 18-year old Casiopea Tun, a young woman who is a slave in her own family. Her mother, once the favourite child of her father Cirilo Leyva, has been cast aside since marrying Casiopea’s father, along with Casiopea herself. Casiopea’s grandfather Cirilo (and therefore the rest of her family, especially her smug and selfish cousin Martín) treats Casiopea and her mother terribly, making them do endless chores and cleaning instead of treating them like family. One day, Casiopea opens a chest lying in her grandfather’s room. She accidently releases Hun-Kamé, the Mayan god of death who has been trapped inside for years – and accidently lodges one of his bone within her. His brother, Vucub-Kamé, has taken control of their underworld in his absence, and has no intentions of giving it up (as he is the reason Hun-Kamé has been trapped all this time) . Hun-Kamé and Casiopea begin a journey together to retrieve his stolen items so that his power can be restored and he can return to his throne in the underworld, known as Xibalba. The two are bound together by the bone shard in Casiopea’s hand, slowly making Hun-Kamé more mortal and Casiopea more god-like, but also slowly killing her.
I had heard about this book for some time, as well as Silvia Moreno-Garcia herself. Her novels have been growing in popularity, and I’ve been debating which of her titles to start with. In each of her books, Moreno-Garcia honours her Mexican heritage, through the characters, setting and story. “Gods of Jade and Shadow” is a tale inspired by Mexican folklore, which is something that drew me to want to read this book. This is something I am unfamiliar with, which made it all the more exciting to read about. Blending folklore, fantasy, and historical fiction, this book works on so many levels. No matter what genre you typically read, there is something for everyone in this novel.
If you’re a fan of fast-paced stories, this one is for you. Casiopea meets Hun-Kamé very early in the novel, and their journey together is exciting and dangerous. Casiopea as the main character is fantastic: she is strong and sure of herself. Having been mistreated for most of her life, she does not take well to having other people tell her what to do. Her cousin Martín has had everything he could want in life handed to him, and as her mother reminds her, this is why he is so unlikable. Casiopea works hard and dreams big, hoping for the days she can go dancing, swimming, and driving in an automobile. Her and Hun-Kamé become a fantastic dynamic-duo, working together and learning more about each other as they go on. The longer they are together, Hun-Kamé become more mortal, losing some of his cold demeanor as their journey becomes more dangerous. I really enjoyed the characters in this novel, all of them complex and acting in unexpected ways.
Along with being an excellent read in my opinion, “Gods of Jade and Shadow” won the 2020 Sunburst Award as well. If you’re looking for a book that spans multiple genres, has a grand adventure, family dynamics, Mexican culture and much more, be sure to take out Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Gods of Jade and Shadow” today!
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