Review – Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow
This book was one of Goodread’s Best of 2020 list so naturally, I decided to pick it up and give it a try. I usually don’t research much about the books I choose to read, I satisfy my curiosity with only the short review I find on Goodreads. I do this because I don’t necessarily want to be influenced by other people’s opinions about certain books (although, reading books from the Best of List is arguably the surest way to be influenced by other people’s opinions).
It was the same with this book as well, so when I embarked on this journey with Casiopea, I didn’t know this was a novel written primarily for young adults. Which I am not anymore (unfortunately). Age is just a number, I know, and we can enjoy all sorts of stories, regardless of the audience it was meant for. I especially enjoy reading picture books meant for 4 to 6 year olds. So this isn’t actually the point.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow is a YA fiction novel which takes you to Xibalba, alongside the God of the Underworld, Hun Kame. There is a little bit of romance there between our two main characters which totally reminded me of that helpless feeling of young love when you misread pretty much all the signs – although they are quite obvious (crushing on a god who can’t show human emotion is definitely not helping in this case).
What I liked about the book was the way it combined elements from Mayan mythology with everyday life of the 1920s. I did learn a lot about this colourful world, but I found that the characters and their relationships with each other were not developed beyond, what seemed to me, a simple sketch. I think this was because the focus was on the journey of the heroine and the many adventures along the way, rather than on her personal, inner journey of self-discovery. This was attempted but, in my opinion, was not perfected.
Casiopea’s relationship with her cousin and grandfather is presented as a toxic, oppressive one, but the examples given about the mistreatment of the girl do not support her deeply rooted hatred towards the two. I understand how such a relationship can make the life of an 18 year old a living hell, but the way she kept referring to her mistreatment, I kept waiting for something truly horrible to be unveiled, something that would help me understand why she felt like there was no way out. These were my impressions, so feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong 🙂 I simply mean, I think, that these relationships could have been further developed. This way, Casiopea’s motivations would have been a lot more understandable.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad book, I did enjoy the descriptions of Xibalba with its many scary creatures. It did raise my curiosity and I googled many elements of Mayan mythology mentioned in the book. It has a handy little glossary where you have a short description of each creature, tradition or phrase. Reading about these made me wonder about Mayan culture in general and I watched a few documentaries and short videos about the topic afterward.
I would say that Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow offers you a glimpse into the beliefs of the ancient Maya through the eyes of a girl who has Mayan blood running through her veins but is torn away from her heritage because of Christianity (represented by her grandfather and cousin). In this sense, one could say that the novel reflects on the destructive nature of Christianity on ancient cultures, while also trying to bring that culture back to life by commemorating it.
Read God’s of Jade and Shadow if you want to know where Xibalba is, or what a chu’lel is, or simply if you need a little bit of adventure in your life while staying in the comforts of your couch.
All in all, this book deserves a Three Fox rating from me. 😊
Let me know what you thought about the book in the comment section below 🙂
Questions to Ponder
What do you think about the name Casiopea in relation to the plot of this novel?
Why do you think Hun Kame is so attracted to Casiopea (both physically and emotionally)? Is it only because of the fading of his powers?
What is it that you liked most about this novel? What didn’t you like?
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