Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Narrator: Yetta Gottesman
Audiobook Length: 11 hours 4 minutes
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.
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.
Gods of Jade and Shadow is a standalone fantasy novel set in 1920s Mexico. It follows Casiopea Tun, who is trapped in her life and forced to be a servant for her grandfather to earn her keep. There are some Cinderella elements with Casiopea’s life without this being a direct retelling. When she opens a wooden box in her grandfather’s room, she accidentally releases the Mayan God of the Dead, Hun-Kamé. He tasks Casiopea with helping him locate an object that can help him reclaim his throne from his usurper brother, Vucab- Kamé. If she succeeds, her dreams will come true; however, if she fails, it will mean her demise.
While the story focuses a lot on Casiopea’s journey, both her adventure quest and her internal growth, there is also another POV to follow in the novel, which is Martín, who is Casiopea’s cousin and her bully. While Martín’s side of events did not seem to belong in the story, it all did eventually start coming together. Casiopea has a lot of self-esteem issues and Martín’s treatment of her does not help matters. As Casiopea travels with Hun-Kamé, the two of them get closer with some fun banter and relationship growth.
The writing in the story is very descriptive where it seems like the reader is in the middle of a legend. The story begins in the tiny village of Uukumil in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico. As the adventure moves forward, the reader and characters travels through the jungles around the peninsula, Mexico City, and the Mayan underworld. The characters all interacted well with their environment, but I wish there were more included from Mexican and Mayan myths. There was a lot in the story, but it just felt like there was a lot of potential for more to make it an even richer read.
Overall, the story is intentionally written in a certain way, which I appreciated through the author’s note. With the author being more upfront about the style, more telling than showing, it did help my reading experience as this is not usually for me. The pacing is slow as there is build-up for the characters and their journey. I do with there were more conversations/interactions between Hun-Kamé and Casiopea just to help me connect more with their relationship. There is some, but it still felt a little underdeveloped for me. This was an interesting story and I enjoyed that it was a standalone. Since this is my second read by the author, I look forward to reading more in the future.