Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Review)

“You are the Lord Hun-Kamé, and you do care about Xibalba. And life may not be fair, but I must be fair. I can’t turn away,” she said.

Rating: 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: July 23rd 2019

Caseopia Tun is a reluctant servant to her family, particularly her miserable grandfather and her cruel cousin, who dreams of the freedom promised to her by her grandfather’s death. It’s a different kind of death that sweeps her out of her town when she becomes accidentally indentured to the god of death Hun-Kamé and is bound to follow him on his other-worldly quest to reclaim his throne and get revenge. 

First off, I know very very little about Mexican culture or Mayan mythology other than the tiny snippets I remember from Horrible Histories. I also know next to nothing about the 1920’s time-period, so if there were glaring cultural and historical inaccuracies, I probably missed them. But I really, really doubt that there were. Silvia Moreno-Garcia had me absolutely transported from my English flat all the way to the beautiful, colourful Mexican towns and cities this story sweeps through from the first page. The descriptions were detailed and beautiful, and I’m not a particularly visual person but I could feel the hot, painted tiles of Mérida and the deep, blistering shadows of Xibalba. I made a ridiculous amount of highlights in this book, because every passing paragraph was artfully put together. I’m half convinced that Silvia did some kind of quest for an ancient god, and got gifted a mastery over words as a reward.

Tucked neatly inside a black snail shell lay Casiopea’s sigh. It was a delicate thing, like a nocturnal butterfly. Pretty too. In strokes of crimson and blue it painted a picture of the most exquisite heartache.

Silvia handled the balance of deity-magic and mundane-humanity beautifully to create a true sense that mythology and reality are balanced on a knife’s edge, which seems appropriate in a novel that thrives on its duality. There are parallels between Hun-Kamé/Vucub-Kamé and Martín, between the overworld and the underworld, and between godhood and humanity. I loved that Casiopea felt like an ordinary girl. She didn’t have a strange and innate ability to wield a sword, or suddenly discovered powers halfway through the novel. Casiopea’s magic comes from her humanity, and her greatest ability was her desire for freedom, equality and peace, even for those she dislikes. 

I’m sure that there were facets of this novel that didn’t strike me as deeply as they could, simply because I’m unfamiliar with Mayan mythology, and I’m convinced that I’m definitely pronouncing every single character and place name wrong in my head (sorry!), but I want to read more about this world I knew nothing about, and will absolutely be looking into Mayan mythology with the same gusto that I used to be taught about Norse and Greek mythology.

Note: This review was copied verbatim from my Goodreads account dated July 8th 2019.

2 thoughts on “Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Review)

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