The Gremlin’s Library: Gods of Jade and Shadow

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a SUCKER for mythology. Irish, Viking, Yoruba, West African… Anything with a mythic bent and a folkloric eye is pretty much automatically my favourite. So when Silvia Moreno-Garcia announced her Gods of Jade and Shadow as a Mayan fairytale, I was sold. Unfortunately I apparently wasn’t the only one – it took six months on hold at the library for me to get it! Entertainingly enough, I then finished it in two days.

The final verdict? Gods of Jade and Shadow is incredible. Set in the 1920s, Gods follows Casiopeia Tun, unwanted granddaughter of a rich man, as she accidentally frees the Mayan god of death from his prison and accompanies him on a quest to restore his power. She isn’t given much choice – due to an unfortunately lodged bone fragment, she’s what is keeping him alive – but she’s been wanting an adventure anyway, away from her horrid grandfather and her childish, sexist cousin.

Before starting this book, I wasn’t familiar with much of Mayan folklore except what I’d picked up from other Mexican and Mexican-inspired media – Xibalba is a name I know from Road to El Dorado, Book Of Life, etc. and I’m vaguely familiar with Kukulkan, the feathered serpent. Hun-Kamé and Vucub-Kamé, however, are completely new to me – and I’ve fallen deeply in love with them. This is partly because of the rich complexity and darkness of Mayan mythology – think bright colours and mythic logic with deeply Gothic sensibilities – and partly because of the poetic prowess of Moreno-Garcia’s writing. Reading Gods of Jade and Shadow is like listening to a storyteller or watching theater; it’s deeply visual, pulling the reader along with inexorable force.

Possibly the most surprising part for me was how much I found myself invested in love stories. People familiar with my reviews know how hard it is for me to appreciate love stories – I’m both aromantic and romantically traumatized, so when Casiopeia and Hun-Kamé began to fall in love, I was concerned. Before long, though, I felt it – and even more, I felt the sorrow along with the romance. Normally, I can’t get invested in love stories because they feel too much like wish-fulfillment or contrived coincidences (which work for some people but not for me), but this one just…clicked.

Gods of Jade and Shadow is absolutely, absolutely worth your read. Moreno-Garcia is a hell of a storyteller, and I’ll be reading more of her work the moment I get the opportunity. The book is available for purchase through Penguin Random House, and probably many of your local bookstores!

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