‘Gods of Jade and Shadow’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Adult, YA, Romance, Fairy Tale, Urban Fantasy, Alternative History, Literary Fantasy

Similar books: War for the Oaks, Obsidian and Blood Trilogy, Bear and the Nightingale, Grim Fandango (Game)

Previous books in the series/by the author reviewed: None

Rating: Highly Recommended if you want to read a 1920’s Mexico Urban Fantasy with a strong Romance Plotline

Here’s the TL;DR for my review (SPOILERS!):

  • Pros
    • 1920’s Mexico is a fully realized setting.
    • The Mayan mythology explored here was fun. I can’t say I’ve ever read an Fantasy novel featuring these gods before.
    • Casiopea Tun is an enjoyable protagonist, a young woman who’s just beginning to gain confidence in herself after a lifetime of being oppressed by her family.
    • Hun-Kame is the deposed god of the Mayan Underworld, and I liked his journey to reclaiming his throne from his treacherous brother.
    • Good prose. The author’s language rests squarely on the stained glass end of the stained glass-window pane spectrum of textual beauty.
  • Mixed
    • The pacing was deliberately slow. The book had a slow start, slow middle, and slow end. There was very little action. This isn’t a bad thing if you want to read an action-light book, but if you’re in the mood for a thriller page turner, this ain’t it.
  • Cons
    • I didn’t fully buy the romance between Casiopea and Hun-Kame. Something about it didn’t click with me, but it might click with you.
    • A lot of the male characters, particularly the human antagonists, were misogynists. Because the author painted them so strongly as misogynists they became a little 2D in their villainy. I wanted them to be more interesting.

Spoiler-tastic Review

I got this book for free before it’s release date for the purpose of an honest review. It will be released in August 2019.

‘Gods of Jade and Shadow’ is a fairy tale set in Mexico 100 years ago. Set in an art-deco world where Mayan traditions, Christian upbringings and modern technology clash and converge, this is a book filled with artistic style and substantive characters.

Casiopea is the disappointing only daughter in a family where sons are preferred, living in a small town in southern Mexico. She has no plans in life besides being her grandfather’s housekeeper, having spent her entire life up until this point being gaslight by her ungrateful family. But when she opens a secret box in her grandfather’s room, she releases the ghost of one of the Mayan death-gods, drawing her into a web of internecine divine and mortal conspiracy.

Hun-Kame is the deposed god-king of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. He had his head cut off by his brother and was imprisoned on Earth in the home of one of his priests, Casiopea’s grandfather. But when Hun-Kame is released by Casiopea, Hun-Kame and Casiopea are inextricably bound; she gains part of his godly power, while he gains her mortality. This forced partnership pleases neither of them, so they decide to do whatever it takes to free themselves of one another.

What follows is an adventure spanning from the jungle-infested Mayan temples in the Yucatan, to Mexcio City, to Texas and California. They must work together, trying to overcome the forces which want to kill them both. I liked the plot, for the characters were forced to cooperate and learn more about themselves. Hun-Kame was forced to develop some humanity, a novel feature for a divine creature, while Casiopea was forced to make decisions for herself and show agency.

Finally, the author’s prose was strong. She uses clear language, spiced up with clever imagery with sparkling use of words. In particular I liked her magic, which she described in an almost McKillip-ish fashion.

Now, as always, I have some constructive criticism.

The book was slowly paced. Some books can pull off being slowly paced, allowing the reader to revel in a drawn-out story told over time with little action or tension. This book almost worked like that for me. I would have liked it if there was a little more action or if the stakes were higher towards the end.

The romance between the two leads didn’t work for me. Now I’ll admit that I don’t generally like Romance subplots, and this book was a Romance subplot writ-large. This book just wasn’t my type. If you’re like me and don’t actively enjoy romance subplots, this book might not be for you. But if you do enjoy romance subplots, then you probably actually would like this book and this isn’t criticism at all.

That’s it! I liked this book. I can Recommend it to your Average Fantasy reader, and Highly Recommend it to a Fantasy reader who is in the mood for some 1920’s Mexico Urban Fantasy goodness with a strong Romance plotline.

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