Minda’s pregnant review of Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
What I drank prior: It’s bowl night (I’m in a league you guys!) so I had a Diet Coke at the alley. Any other bowl buddies out there?
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.
My Sunmary: Casiopea is a 20s-era Cinderella-type looking after her abusive grandfather in Mexico. When she finds her fate tied to a Mayan god, she goes on the adventure she always dreamed of, though her life may be cut short it they do not succeed.
Spoiler-free Thoughts: This is a book club read and I’m glad we picked it! I like that it did they whole gods-are-real thing but in a period piece with Mayan mythology. Sounds pretty cool, right? I was mostly there for the story, but some parts just left me lacking. The narration bugged me and I thought the obstacles didn’t seem so daunting that I questioned the success of the endeavor. Looking forward to hearing what everyone else thinks, too.
Characters: Casio…honestly not sure how to pronounce this name so I just called her Cass. So Cass was our main squeeze along with the god she unleashed, Hun-Kamé. I loved that Cass took no shit and sometimes ran her mouth when it wasn’t appropriate. My kinda girl. I really liked Hun-Kamé and his evolution throughout the book. His godness and lack of humor were a very funny pairing. As for our villains Vucub-Kamé and Martín, I thought they were good characters, too, and liked that they were layered.
Side note – no spoilers but I’m like most of the way there for the love story, I guess? Not quite all there—it may be that it just hasn’t been that much time but it seems to lack depth.
Plot: Our girl Cass dreams of a life of adventure, but between her grandfather’s frailty and abuse and her arrogant, hateful cousin set to take over the family fortune, things aren’t looking great. That all changes when she opens
Pandora’s a box that so happens to contain the bones of the Mayan god of death. Finding her fate tied with the his, she begins a journey with the god—Hun-Kamé—to find his missing pieces and reclaim his throne in the underworld of Xibalba. Together, they go from the party-going beaches of Eastern Mexico to the rich capital city to the Pacific coast and desert of Baja California. Meanwhile, Hun-Kamé’s twin Vucub-Kamé and his reluctant henchman, cousin Martín, plan their defeat. Things all come to a head for a face-off between the two warring twins.
World Building: I really liked the idea of it—always a big fan of gods and mortals mash-ups—and especially the Mayan/Mexican influences. Placing it in the 20s was also an interesting choice. I wasn’t sure the purpose, but dig a solid period piece. I think I would have liked more interactions with other gods though and exploring more of the mythology.
Writing Style: TBH I thought it was kinda weird. It was like third person but with a judgey narrator? I don’t know how to describe it.
It all wrapped up a little too nicely for me. Like, all was just good between the two brothers at the end and with Cass/Martín? What about for the other gods or mythical being who backed Vucub-Kamé? Do they get the same forgiveness?
Also, like I mentioned earlier, I just didn’t feel the tension here. It never seemed to me like there was any doubt that she was going to succeed and that he was going to win his throne. I liked that Cass is continuing her adventures though.
What to pair it with: Paloma or tequila grapefruit to go with the Mexican flavor and our tart protag.
Rating: 3/5 shots. Loved concept, execution just wasn’t all there for me.