Monday, August 26, 2019

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

In my desire to read so many books this month, I soon found myself in a book glut. I think I had six books going all at once, and I wasn't making headway on any of them. Argh! 

But, I'm seeing a bit of light, and I sat down and finished this novel yesterday after mowing, yard work, and putting up a video on my Bookalicious Babe Facebook page. Now I'm still a bit in the weeds, with less than a week to go before September hits, but I'm going to do my best to power through my remaining August books. If only I could get by on 4 hours of sleep each night, I'd be caught up and reaching for more books. 

So. Back to this novel, which I first saw a few months ago and became intrigued because it was so very different than my usual reads. I don't expand my reading universe nearly enough to include more diverse unique authors, cultures, and settings, and shame on me. But this novel, oh, it had me at first glance. Mayan mythology and 1920's Mexico? A heroine who is one tough cookie, even though she's had a lousy life? I couldn't wait to read it. So I began it along with all of my other books, and it took me a few weeks to finish it. But that wasn't because I didn't like it--I loved it. 

Casiopea Tun lives in her grandfather's large house, along with her jackass of a cousin Martin, her mother, and other family members. Her mother returned to her father's house after her husband died, and she had no where else to go. Casiopea's father was of a lower class, and that's reason for treating her mother poorly, and Casiopea as a lowly servant. She's eighteen, and dreams of someday leaving the small town of Uukumil and exploring the world. A conservative town run by the Catholic church, women are expected to cover their hair and faces, be modest in everything, and obey the men. Grandfather spends most of his time in his bedroom, being demanding, cruel, and just an all around jerk. 

Casiopea is punished and had to stay home while the rest of the family goes away to the hot springs for a few days, and she's not happy about it. She's in her grandfather's bedroom when she notices the box he has sitting at the end of his bed. He forbids anyone to touch it, and he wears the key around his neck at all times. Except when he goes to the hot springs. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she finds the key and unlocks the box. 

Inside are bones, which kapow! soon form a grown man-a really good looking man. He is Hun-Kame, the God of the Dead, and he's been locked in the box for centuries by his brother, Vucub-Kame, who has taken over the underworld, known as Xibalba. **By the way, I've completely made up pronunciations in my head for all of these Mayan names, and I'm pretty sure they're nothing like the actual, correct pronunciations** Hun-Kame is missing a few body parts: an eye, an ear, a finger, and a very important jade necklace. Casiopea is now his partner as they travel across Mexico to recover all of the parts of his body, helping him restore himself to his rightful place as the Supreme Ruler of Xibalba. Casiopea has little choice in the matter, because she carries a shard of Hun-Kame's bone embedded in her hand, and he literally draws life from her in order to function in the Middleworld (Earth). She's dying, slowly, and he's becoming more human the longer he stays in the Middleworld and relies on her to sustain him. If he completes his quest and takes back his kingdom, Casiopea gets whatever her heart desires, and her life back. 

I loved learning about Mayan mythology, and a similar theme I've seen in other mythology based stories also popped up here: the old Gods are losing their power as people move farther away from old beliefs and closer to modern technology. If no one believes in you, how do you continue to exist?

There's a deadly game between the two brothers, and Casiopea is stuck in the middle. I enjoyed watching her become a stronger woman as she traveled with Hun-Kame and gee, fell hard for the handsome god. Who wouldn't? And Hun-Kame...he is awesomely God-like, but as he travels with Casiopea, he becomes more human. The quest makes up most of the plot, and I settled in for a fantastic tale, getting slightly anxious as they neared the final showdown with Vucub-Kame. Who would come out the winner, and what would that mean for humanity? 

Ah, this was a great story. A magical tale, full of demons, witches, fantastical creatures, powerful Gods, and an underworld that is straight up kind of crazy/stuff of nightmares. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who loves mythology. 

Rating: 5/6 for a tale of magic, mischief, quests, and what it means to be human. I had a hard time putting it down and was immediately engrossed in Casiopea's journey through Mexico and beyond. Ah! good stuff. Mexican folklore brought to life. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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