Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

Genre: Historical Fiction | Fantasy

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis from The StoryGraph: 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 had this book on my radar, but an online friend wanted to read it, so it got bumped to the top of my TBR pile for a buddy read this month. Overall, I enjoyed this one, although there were a few things I had issues with.

What I liked:

  • The wordsmithing is wonderful. Moreno-Garcia definitely has a way with words and the descriptive passages of the world the character inhabit are beautifully written and bring all of it to life. The different cities and landscapes the characters travel through are vibrant and detailed.
  • Casiopea’s character is the kind of spunky, take-charge kind of heroine I love. Despite having a lot of obstacles thrown in her path, she overcomes a lot. I also appreciated that this story didn’t follow any “fairy tale ending” trope and leaves the reader wanting to know the next chapter in Casiopea’s life.
  • I was intrigued by the “fantasy” aspect of the description, and I wouldn’t really call this one a fantasy…. more like magical realism, but a very skillful blending of Jazz Age Mexico and ancient Mayan myths and legends that was creative and presented in a way that you could believe the old gods had come back to life. I appreciated the presentation of the ancient myths in a way that felt new and interesting.

What I didn’t like:

  • I am not sure what purpose the character of Martin served, except as a villian figure. I thought he was going to play a bigger role in the story and certainly to have more of a point for being in the story.
  • I wanted the god of death to have a more of a role. He’s an enigmatic character, and while he is an important part of the story, his story arc fell a bit flat for me.

Overall, I enjoyed this one and I always really like learning about myths and legends from other cultures I’m not as familiar with. Having the overlay of some 20th century Mexican history I always wasn’t very aware of was another bonus, and I did appreciate the great writing in this one as well.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

  1. I really enjoyed this one, too! The writing style was a perfect fit for the setting, I felt. I agree that it was a lot more focused on Casiopea (and not the god/s) than I had expected based on the title, though. 😉

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