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.
“A spellbinding fairy tale rooted in Mexican mythology . . . Gods of Jade and Shadow is a magical fairy tale about identity, freedom, and love, and it's like nothing you've read before.”—Bustle
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • Tordotcom • The New York Public Library • BookRiot
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.
Praise for Gods of Jade and Shadow
“A dark, dazzling fairy tale . . . a whirlwind tour of a 1920s Mexico vivid with jazz, the memories of revolution, and gods, demons, and magic.”—NPR
“Snappy dialog, stellar worldbuilding, lyrical prose, and a slow-burn romance make this a standout. . . . Purchase where Naomi Novik, Nnedi Okorafor, and N. K. Jemisin are popular.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“A magical novel of duality, tradition, and change . . . Moreno-Garcia’s seamless blend of mythology and history provides a ripe setting for Casiopea’s stellar journey of self-discovery, which culminates in a dramatic denouement. Readers will gladly immerse themselves in Moreno-Garcia’s rich and complex tale of desperate hopes and complicated relationships.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Moreno-Garcia (The Beautiful Ones) crafts a magical novel of duality, tradition, and change, set in the late 1920s as Mexico transitions from its post-Revolution period to the Jazz Age. Casiopea Tun leads a constrained life in her grandfather's household in a small town, barely daring to dream of more. Such dreams are quickly snuffed by both her grandfather and her spoiled, narcissistic yet self-deprecating cousin, Mart n Levya. A minor act of rebellion, opening her grandfather's secret chest, releases the injured and imprisoned Mayan death god, Hun-Kam , Supreme Lord of Xibalba, and inexorably binds her to his quest to regain his underworld throne. Hun-Kam 's bond to Casiopea infects him in return with vestiges of mortality a circumstance his ambitious twin, Vucub-Kam , plots to use to his advantage, assisted by a somewhat reluctant Mart n. Moreno-Garcia's seamless blend of mythology and history provides a ripe setting for Casiopea's stellar journey of self-discovery, which culminates in a dramatic denouement. Readers will gladly immerse themselves in Moreno-Garcia's rich and complex tale of desperate hopes and complicated relationships. Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the character Vucub-Kam 's name.
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For Lovers of Mexico
The publisher category for this book is fairy tale, but it's so much more than that. It's a historical novel, taking place in the 1920s, when Frida Kahlo would have been the same age as our heroine. It's an homage to Mexican literature: a book written in English that has the cadences of translated Spanish; it's a portal into myth—in fact, it's a portal story, where our heroine Casiopea Tun is drawn into the quest of a god, the Lord of Death. You might also describe it as Coco for grownups; it's a journey into Mexica cosmology. Casiopea starts out as a Cinderella character and then she frees the Lord of Death from prison and goes on the hero's journey to help him reclaim his throne.
The book succeeds on all those levels: a romance with a touch of the picaresque, a tragicomedy, a mythic journey. Casiopea faces demons and desires and learns the truth of herself. The story moves quickly, and it moves your heart. I loved it.
Moreno-Garcia has made an exquisite jewel of a book; most people are going to appreciate it on the Coco level, and that's fine—what a gift all the other levels are, to those already familiar with mestizo culture.
In these days of making old things new again, the stories of our ancestors become refleshed in modern attire; the art of the storyteller is to birth new meaning from the same old stories, for the core lessons of the human story remain the same, like human nature. The storyteller leaves us having introduced change into the divine realms and leaves us with the unchanged ancient wisdom: life on earth is a gift to be savored and cherished, for it is sweet and good. Nevertheless, this goodness is borne from suffering, blood, and sacrifice; a true person makes her choices knowing that one day she may be the one who bleeds, the one who sacrifices. The birth will still be worth it.
**(I received a digital advance copy from Netgalley and Del Rey for review; it was worth the migraine, and I'll be purchasing the book to reread. Huge fan!)