Book Review

Gods of Jade and Shadow

Gods of Jade and Shadow

Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published: Del Rey (July 23, 2019)
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Rating: 5/5

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a gorgeous, #ownvoices historical fantasy set during the Jazz Age and inspired by Mexican Folklore. And, I have no doubt that this book will make my top 10 list this year.

“Words are seeds, Casiopea. With words you embroider narratives, and the narratives breed myths, and there’s power in the myth. Yes, the things you name have power.” 

The heroine of our story is Casiopea Tun, a young woman who spends her days toiling away in her grandfathers house as a live-in servant for her family though she dreams of running away to the big city and living life on her own terms. She is tormented by her egotistical cousin Martin and frustrated her mother’s acquiesce to the families demands. One day, when particularly aggrieved, she opens a forbidden trunk kept in her grandfather’s room and releases the bones of a Mayan god of death.

“Ah, there is none more fearful of thieves than the one who has stolen something, and a kingdom is no small something.” 

Upon his release, Hun-Kamé tells her that he is the rightful king of Xibalba, and that she must now help him reclaim his throne from his brother. If they fail, she will die. But, if they succeed, she will be awarded with anything she wishes. As scary as the prospect is, this just might be her opportunity to change her life.

Virtuous child who has not known the true measure of unhappiness, how could you ever imagine the breadth of my enmity? What games do you think gods play? 

Moreno-Garcia’s writing is beautiful and she weaves a tale so full of heart, and hope, and sorrow. It’s a story about finding your way in the world and discovering what you’re truly made of. Casiopea has become one of my favorite characters in literature. She has a quiet kind of strength that I find very endearing, and you can’t help but root for her.

I also really appreciate how Moreno-Garcia’s story grounds itself in the historical narrative. She doesn’t shy away from many of the issues present during the period including colonization, colorism, and the toxicity of a patriarchal society built around religious ideology. But, she is able to weave these elements into the story with such care and grace.

Casiopea was a realist, but her youth made it impossible to remain rooted to the earth every second of the day. Once in a while she sneaked a line of poetry into her heart, or memorized the name of a star.

It’s been awhile since I finished a book and felt such a mix of emotions. The Gods of Jade and Shadow left me sad, but hopeful. It’s a book that will burrow its way into your heart and make itself quite at home. I will be thinking about this one for a long time.

Trigger Warnings: domestic abuse, graphic depictions of death, animal sacrifice, colorism and mentions of skin lightening cream

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