Gods of Jade and Shadow Review

“I’d like to count stars with you. I don’t know where I even got this idea, but it’s there.”

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

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.

CW: mild blood, mild gore 

“Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the position of the planets.”

Right from the beginning, I was enamored with Moreno-Garcia’s craft. This exquisite fairy tale was a treat from beginning to end, leaving me heartbroken yet in awe of such a brilliant story. The vivid world of Gods of Jade and Shadow invites the readers to journey along with Casiopea, to trek through Mexico during the Jazz Age–an enchanting voyage of music, love, and myths. 

“Is that why you stare at the stars? Are you searching for beauty or dreaming with your eyes wide open?” 

This is also a book about dreams, an ode to the ones who dare to dream–to live. Casiopea, a dreamer, is a headstrong and quick witted heroine, begins an adventure with Hun-Kamé, the God of Death who cannot dream. A dreamer and one who cannot dream, the unlikely pair sets off to restore Hun-Kamé’s glory and his reign while facing their foils: Martín to Casiopea and Vucub-Kamé to Hun-Kamé. All the characters are given nuances and complexity, asking the readers to sympathize with their humanity. Thus begins a story of opposing forces: life vs. death, bravery vs. cowardice, and life vs. freedom. 

More, Casiopea and Hun-Kamé’s relationship was so utterly romantic that I was gushing and highlighting all their interactions and dialogues. This is not an instant-love trope but rather a relationship bloomed from friendship, snarky comments, and learning how to live. It was magical.

“Heaven and hell both manifest in Mexico City, coexisting side by side.” 

Taking us through the streets of Jalisco, Mexico City, and El Paso, Moreno-Garcia paints a colorful yet evocative portrait of Mexican culture, highlighting its transformations while sneaking in clever political commentary. But Mexican culture isn’t our destination and instead, only the beginning of the journey. In a way, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a love letter to Moreno-Garcia’s culture, whisking us away to the Mayan underworld and showing all beautiful things in death. 

Even if you are unfamiliar with Mayan culture, do pick up this book because the prose is just stunning: digestible yet effortlessly beautiful. Gods of Jade and Shadow truly reads like a fairy tale, so much so that I could perfectly picture this book amongst Mayan/Mexican classical myths–a folklore told to every child before bed. 

This was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

“Mythmaking. It’s greater than you or I, this tale.” 

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