Gods of Jade and Shadow by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

Published by Quercus Books


The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this 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.

I picked this book to complement my trip to Mexico earlier this year, I’m gutted that it’s actually taken me so long to get around to reading it! The cover is amazing and the story itself straddles genres between fantasy, mythology and historical fiction.

The story captures two worlds completely, early twentieth century Mexico and an earlier time of Mayan mythology where gods rule the world. I loved the vivid atmosphere the author creates and sustains throughout the entire story.
The folklore was glorious, I love the idea of storytelling and words having power over the gods and how the proper use of symmetry in creating these stories can make them more powerful.

I did find it a little tougher to keep my attention fixed near the middle of the book, preferring fast paced action over a slow burn. I feel like things could have progressed a bit more rapidly, there was a lot of dialogue and pondering by the main characters rather than striding into action.

Casiopea was a tough main character, a young woman who’s had a rather disappointing life up to this point but tries to be good despite this. It’s this characteristic that makes her so strong in a story where everyone seems keen to be dismembering each other (or at least talking about it a lot). She has flaws and doubts about the quest she’s been dragged into, which makes her incredibly relatable though I feel that the romance element of this book needed to either go big or go home to be worth the inclusion. The battle of personalities between the main protagonists is really satisfying as they all change throughout the story, leaving the ending a mystery.

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