Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno Garcia
A Mesmerizing and Poetically Bittersweet Delight
Casiopea is a girl who dreams of the stars and freedom, but she’s stuck in her small town in Yucatan, Mexico. One day, she opens a wooden chest, and accidentally unleashes Hun-Kamé, an ancient Maya god of death who had been trapped and betrayed by his brother. She’s fierce and he’s broody and together they embark on a journey to reclaim Hun-Kamé’s kingdom.
“Fear is generous and does not exclusively lodge in the hearts of mortals.” Gods of Jade and Shadow
Their journey is time limited. When Casiopea freed Hun-Kamé, a piece of his bone was embedded into her arm. This linked the two and drained her gradually of her life force. In order for Hun-Kamé to stop this he would need to find his missing body parts. When he was released from the box, he was missing a few parts of his body and without them, he did not have his full powers. The longer he was without them the more human he became and the longer the bone was stuck inside Casiopea, the closer to death she was. It was a lose-lose situation all around.
The characters in this book were so solid and layered. They constantly break the conventions that their archetypes traditionally fall into. By doing this, Moreno-Garcia creates a well rounded and nuanced narrative driven by its characters. The antagonists are slightly more wooden, but they are given the backstory to their actions, and I really enjoyed the final showdown between Casiopea and her “enemy”, her cousin, Martin.
Our main protagonist, Casiopea shines. She’s strong, vulnerable and unapologetically herself. I loved reading from her perspective and she has quickly become one of my favorite characters in literature. Casiopea is a girl who feels so much that it spills into Hun- Kamé. They are both so, so lonely and have been for so long that their relationship feels tragically poetic. It’s one of the strongest points in the novel. Moreno-Garcia is an expert at building tension and slow burn bittersweet angst.
This story pulls from the Popol Vuh and Maya mythology and I am so happy to read Latinx rep from an #ownvoices author.