Goodreads: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Published: 23 July 2019
Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy
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.
I buddy read this with Leslie @Books Are the New Black and although it started out rocky for the both of us, we ended up really enjoying the story. The angst really sent us! 😂
TL;DR: The moment I finished this book I immediately re-read the last few chapters of the book three times throughout the day. To say this ending had me in a chokehold would be an understatement! If you love stories rich in mythology, culture and history, fantastical adventures, and a classic swoonworthy and achingly angsty romance, I would definitely recommend giving this a try! This was my first book by Moreno-Garcia and I’m sure it won’t be my last!
CW/TW: domestic violence, graphic self-harm, animal death
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the ending of this book since I finished it and the more I re-read my highlights (of which I have so very many lol), the more my heart yearns to be back with Casiopea and Hun-Kamé. So, here are some thoughts I threw together about this book. It’s emotional and probably a mess but hopefully, it makes some kind of sense anyway!
“Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the position of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament.”
Gods of Jade and Shadow is an exquisitely rich story brimming with Mayan mythology. It’s a story about dreams and finding your path, family and forgiveness, and most surprisingly to me, it is also an epic love story between a god and a mortal. I’m not even exaggerating when I tell you that I immediately re-read the last few chapters three times after finishing the book because oh my, those emotions HURT ME SO GOOD (srsly, why am I like this?)! Friends, it was so forking good!!! 😭
“I deal in illusions. It is my gift. But it’s not an illusion. Who I am right this second with you. Do you understand? I can’t say it any better. Remember me like this, if you choose to remember me at all.”
It was a bit of a rocky start because although it’s a pretty slow-paced read, the journey aspect of it kicks off very quickly and I felt disconnected from how fast things happened. That bit of pacing at the start felt odd to me and I was *this close* to convincing myself that I wouldn’t enjoy this book but I’m so glad I kept reading as I became invested thanks to the beautiful writing, the fantastic world-building and character development. Moreno-Garcia really sets the scene beautifully and it wasn’t hard to picture her words come to life—from the changing cities and fashions to the foods and vibrant culture influenced by “loosening morals” thanks to the Jazz Age and its impact on traditions. This period brought with it an ever-changing landscape and it was captivating to experience through the author’s telling of it. I do think that all the details contributed to the slow pace because Moreno-Garcia really doesn’t skimp on any part of the journey, history and mythology and it was a lot to digest at times—and yet despite that, I loved how everything was woven together to create such a lively tapestry! I will say though that if you’re not a fan of stories that are heavy on journeying or travelling, then this might not be for you as that’s what a good portion of this plot involves.
“He was afraid, like when he’d been a small child and thought monsters lurked under his bed; only now they did, and he assisted them.”
The story alternates between three POVs: Casiopea, her pitiful cousin Martín, and Vucub-Kamé, the usurper and current Supreme Lord of Xibalba. Of course, there is Hun-Kamé, the rightful Lord of Xibalba, who doesn’t get his own POV but is intertwined with Casiopea’s. The story takes off the moment Casiopea and Hun-Kamé leave her tiny village, Uukumil, and they travel from city to city in search of his missing pieces. Along the way, we meet so many fascinating and terrifying mythical characters from demons, ghosts, witches and succubi and I was enthralled and horrified by them all. That said, the core set of characters whose POVs we follow was so easy to love and hate in turns, I was honestly surprised by how much I felt for them and how the author was able to get me to empathise with characters that I loathed from the start. These characters were messy but realistic and well-rounded. Casiopea especially was so well-formed and I loved the growth and strength of her character but also her extremely kind and full heart. She has big dreams and I admired her passion, feistiness and rebellious nature. Her bond that grew with Hun-Kamé was also beautifully developed. I truly didn’t go into this expecting any kind of romance but it was truly epic. It’s the classic kind of romance that’s full of soft and desperate longing and that burns with a fiery passion. It was extremely swoontastic and heartbreaking at the same time and although I’m not a big fan of angst, holy wow, did I LOVE the way these star-crossed lovers had my heart aching for some kind of HEA. 😭
“The things you name do grow in power, but others that are not ever whispered claw at one’s heart anyway, rip it to shreds even if a syllable does not escape the lips.”
As much as I wished that the ending had been different because I’m not a fan of abrupt and open endings, I also can’t deny that it worked perfectly for Casiopea’s story. It was heartbreaking but it was also hopeful and the more I thought about it the more I realised a neater or happier ending would’ve changed the story. Overall, despite the rocky beginning and the unexpected ending, this book has managed to worm its way into my heart and I have a feeling it’s gonna be living rent-free in my head for a while to come!
Have you read Gods of Jade and Shadow or is it on your TBR?