Gods of Jade and Shadow
The Mayan God of Death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore, for readers of The Song of Achilles and Uprooted.
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.
LOOK AT THIS COVER! The colors are gorgeous and serves as a perfect theme for the story.
|I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
There are just so many things I love about this book that brought back my hope for YA novels. As of late, I felt there has been a decline of YA novels in regards to quality and the genre itself–falling into the same tropes, cliches, and recycling the same plots. I get it, I am 24 and YA novels are not really supposed to target readers like me but sometimes it is not always necessary to follow the trend but to focus on the quality of the content.
But for me, Gods of Jade and Shadow stood out. It was mature, patient, and thoroughly descriptive. Moreno-Garcia is a natural story teller and her writing style is effortless.
We are all familiar with the Jazz Age from novels such as The Great Gatsby and what comes to mind are images of flappers, glitz and glamour, so it was interesting to see how it was portrayed in Mexico.
The world-building… delightfully descriptive, vivid like splashes of paint, but not rushed. The pace is patient as she constructs her world balanced with history and fantasy. The author was somehow able to twine Mayan mythology while describing the architecture and the culture significances and influences of various Mexico cities without making it sound like a history lesson. Each town and city we are introduced to has its on theme and appeal.
I actually found myself curious to explore more about Mayan mythology and historical events in Mexico.
Also, I liked how unfair society was described. Not liked per se–as a person who has dark skin, it is panful to read when people are mistreated due to their race–but by the author adding it into the story, it makes it more believable and real. When authors choose to gloss over a more painful part of history–you are not REALLY telling the story. You are holding back. I liked how the author mentioned how people in this time period coveted their European heritages and dismissed those with African and Indigenous features. This theme is unfortunately prevalent in today’s society as well.
I adored our heroine. Genuinely. She seemed so real, tangible, her worries and dreams so honest that anyone could relate. She was not a Mary Sue who was special–she literally just had bad luck. But she does not whine or throw a tantrum, she is brave and never backs down. But she is not perfect–which made me like her more. I especially liked her shyness and how proper she was. It makes sense with the time period and her religious beliefs. Casiopea is a fiery girl who dreams of escaping her dull, harsh life and exploring the world and with the turn of events, she does. Despite the doom approaching, she urges on and does not balk as the journey takes her farther and farther from the comfort of home.
I will not give anything away but the gods depicted are not so easy to put in a box. Not so easy to define, not so easy to understand their motives. Mercurial. Proud. We never really get into the head of Hun-Kame and I preferred it like that. It made his character more interesting and harder to distinguish. It left him a mystery while in contrast, his brother–who perspective we do get–was very obvious to us and his motives.
There is a lot of juxtaposition between the main characters–Casiopea/Martin and Hun-Kame/ Vucub-Kame and though it first appears they are so different, in the end, they all come together.
I loved learning about the Mayan gods and the creatures we were introduced to. It was different than the usual vampire, werewolf, fey trio portrayed in novels nowadays and it was a nice relief.
I would definitely recommend if you want a book that will both teach and entertain you!