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Book Review

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Gods of Jade and Shadow (Hardback)


Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
336 pages
RRP: £16.99
ISBN: 978 1 52940 263 6
Publication Date: 23 July 2019

The nineteen-twenties was the age of jazz. Hedonism was the order of the day, but not for Casiopea Tun. Condemned to live the life of a drudge at the behest of her tyrannical Grandfather, she finally can take no more and vows to leave his house. Believing that he will die, leaving her and her mother penniless, she decides to rob the chest that he keeps. On opening the chest Casiopea does not discover money, but a sleeping god….

Gods of Jade and Shadow (2019. 336 pages) is a fantasy novel which mixes modern South American culture with Mayan mythology. The book was written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. In structure the story falls somewhere between a road trip and a quest.

On the one hand, this is an unusual mix, not many authors have used Mayan mythology in their stories, but the thing which struck me the most was how similar it was to a western world view. The world is stratified into many layers and the god, Hun-Kame, is the disposed god of the underworld, the god of death, or at least he was until his brother decapitated him, leaving him in a box for Casiopea to find. Earth is in the middle plane, which presumably means that there is a heaven, but as these are not Christian myths this is barely addressed.

The book reminded me of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, both have the gods being given form by humans and sustained by human worship. It is the lack of worship which divides the brothers, leading to Hun-Kame’s downfall.

The quest takes Hun and Casiopea across Mexico and into the southern states in search of Hun’s missing parts, which his brother has scattered, so diminishing his power. All the while the two are pursued by Casiopea's’s brother Martin.

This alone may have sustained the narrative, but Garcia adds a nice little twist. When Cass frees Hun a sliver of him gets stuck in her skin. In part, this goes some way to protect her from the creatures she will encounter, but the biggest effect is to slowly have Cass’s humanity effect Hun. As the two become more similar, they likewise start to grow closer to each other.

Both Vucub-Kame (Hun’s brother) and Martin are portrayed as multi-layered characters with complex motivations. Vucub does not want his people to fade as worship disappears, nor does he want to spend eternity in his brother’s shadow. Martin has his own reasons to be bitter, but considering how dysfunctional his family is, it is little wonder that he envies Cass and so goes out of his way to make her life a misery.

Overall, this was an interesting read. On the one hand it’s a straight forward quest, but the creatures they meet and the character development made it well worth the time.


Charles Packer

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