the Little Red Reviewer

Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Posted on: May 28, 2020

 

Oh this book!

What started out as a cute little adventure story, turned into the most wonderful hero(ine)’s journey!!

yes, I admit, when I first started reading Gods of Jade and Shadow, I was like “this is super cool, 1920s Mexico, we’ve got a fun adventure starting, looks like there could be some cute romance happening here”.  and for the first half of the book, that sorta is, what is happening.  AND THEN.

Lemme tell you ALL about it!

Because reasons, Casiopea Tun has a bit of Cinderella situation going on.  She and her Mom live with their extended family, but Casiopea is treated like a servant.  She cooks, cleans, goes to the market, runs errands for her awful cousin (is he that awful? really?  actually YES), and takes care of her angry, bitter grandfather.    She dreams of a way out of this life, but can’t see one.   this is starting out very fairy tale-ish, yes?

one day,  when the family is on an outing, having left Caseopea at home, as a punishment,  she takes special notice of an old trunk in her grandfather’s bedroom.  And she opens the trunk.

What’s in the trunk?   oh, only the bones and soul of Hun-Kame,  Lord of Xibalba, and one of his bone shards gets lodged in Casiopea’s hand.  no biggie, right?  He can just, remove the shard, and then he can go back to Xibalba to dethrone his brother, and then Casiopea can pretend none of this ever happened, right?

hahahaha, NO.

Hun-Kame immediately starts his plan to return to Xibalba and dethrone his brother Vucub-Kame.  But first,  he must locate his missing left ear,  left index finger, and left eye, so that he can be whole again.  But what about that bone shard?

The bone shard is part of Hun-Kame, and so long as it remains lodged in Casiopea’s hand, she has a glint of the supernatural about her, the protection of a god.  On the literal other hand,  the longer it stays in her hand,  the more human Hun-Kame becomes.   If the shard isn’t removed in time, he will forget who he is,  and she will die.

Casiopea and Hun-Kame thus leave on an adventure across Mexico, visiting demi-gods,  demons, and other friends of Xibalba, so he can regain his missing body parts before time runs out.

Sounds serious, isn’t it?

Ok, so I’m sure this book wasn’t planned to be cute and adorable and funny and flirty and heartwarming, but it was all of those things.  I’ll bet this book was planned to have an amazing ending that was an absolutely joy to read, and it was that too.

See, here’s the thing:

Casiopea is a good Catholic girl. She shouldn’t be alone with a man in a train compartment, especially a man she isn’t related to. She doesn’t even know this guy!  But. . . Hun-Kame is not a man, he is a Lord of Xibalba.  So it’s ok, right?

and Hun-Kame has no idea how to talk to mortals. he has no idea how to talk to women. He also has no idea how a train schedule works.  For goodness sake, he doesn’t know what coffee is!  To me,  he was adorably clueless.

Watching the two of them travel across Mexico was the most adorable and heartwarming thing I’ve seen in ages. in AGES.

Moreno-Garcia’s prose was a joy to read.  You know how sometimes you read something, and it’s fun, but the sentences get convoluted and overornamented, and by the time to get to the end of a sentence you’ve forgotten what happened at the beginning?  Gods of Jade and Shadow was the opposite.  I felt like someone was telling me a story, I felt like someone was drawing me into the story, one perfect morsel at a time.  (I’m also a sucker for anything mythology, anything hero’s journey-ish.  Oh, you aren’t into that?  well then your mileage WILL vary)

Basically, I adored her writing style.  Moreno-Garcia made this story come alive for me.  I loved how she wove mythology into 1920’s Mexico, I loved the characters she created.

As Casiopea and Hun-Kame travel around, seeking his missing body parts, some of the chapters open with a fun introduction of the city they are arriving in, such as Veracruz,  Mexico City, Yucatan, and Baja California.   And as they meet with the supernatural people, sometime a bargain or a sacrifice is required.  Lords of Xibalba do not haggle, and they do make sacrifices of themselves!  That is why they have human servants!  Whatever Casiopea has to give up, it is better than be being treated as a servant in her own grandfather’s home, right?   And helping Hun-Kame helps her,  as the faster he is made whole, the sooner the shard can be removed from her hand,  the quicker she can go back to a normal life.   But?  the more time Hun-Kame spends in the mortal world, the more human he becomes. And him and Casiopea are having such a fun time!

When Hun-Kame becomes his full self, he will no longer remember his time among mortals. He will no longer remember Casiopea, he won’t remember that she taught him how to tell jokes, he won’t remember thinking she was weird for liking coffee. He may not remember the promises he has made to her.  But she’ll remember, if she can manage to stay alive.

Didn’t Hun-Kame have a brother? Yes, yes he did.  Vucub-Kame isn’t ready to give up his throne.  He once worked with Casiopea’s grandfather to imprison Hun-Kame,  so it’s fitting that he now recruits another member of her family to keep him on the throne.

The end of Gods of Jade and Shadow was so wonderful, I can’t even.  If you are also a sucker for Hero(ine)’s Journeys, for anything mythology related,  for Gods who are trapped in their own stories, for ancient mythology reconciling itself with modern life, if you like a little drama and a little family drama, you are going to LOVE this book.

When the world is crappy, when I want to escape, when I want characters who make me happy, who make me smile, who say funny things to lighten the mood, this is exactly the kind of book I’m looking for.   The light romance? it was exactly what I needed.

 

9 Responses to "Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia"

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Of the Nebula Award nominees that I’ve read, this one or A Memory Called Empire might be my choice. I still need to finish them all, though. I quite enjoy reading about Mesoamerica, and enjoyed seeing some of that mythology play out here. It is so rarely portrayed in things that I’ve found.

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I’m the same – enjoy reading about Mesoamerica, struggle to find good fictional portrayals. Can you recommend any other fictional titles?

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The only one that comes to mind is “Servant of the Underworld,” which I recall you reviewing. I’ve read other literature type fiction related to Mesoamerica, but wasn’t terribly impressed. I don’t know enough to track down more very easily.

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I enjyed Servant of the Underworld, I bought the sequel but never got around to reading it. Should you find some more good titles, please let me know!

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I have this on my list because of another glowing review. But, you know how these things go … I forgot what was supposed to be good about it.
It sounds incredible. It sounds like just the sort of thing I’d like to read right now. So I’ll go dig out Signal to Noise because I don’t have any money to buy books right now. *sigh*

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I really want to read Signal to Noise! was it good?

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Yes! Very different to this one, but really REALLY good. I still haven’t written up all my thoughts and feelings…

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[…] (14) AND IN THIS CORNER. The Little Red Reviewer also gives this irresistible description about G“Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia”. […]

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I loved this book! I love learning about the mythology of other cultures, and like you I really enjoyed the relationship between these two characters. That, plus it’s a road trip across a country I haven’t seen – a perfect fantasy novel.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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