Living in a small town as a young adult can be stifling at a point in your life when you want nothing more than to explore yourself and the world. It is easy to daydream about what adventures await outside of town, but Casiopea makes a life-changing discovery right inside her grandfather’s home in Uukumil, Mexico.
Gods of Jade and Shadow is a mystical blend of fiction, history, and Mayan mythology. Casiopea Tun is a young woman who is tired of wasting her life doing chores in her small town. She longs for freedom and stumbles upon it when she opens her grandfather’s chest and frees the Supreme Lord of Xibalba, Hun-Kamé. Now, bound spiritually and physically through a bone shard in Casiopea’s finger, she must accompany Hun-Kamé in his mission to reclaim his rightful place on the throne of the Mayan underworld. In this journey, she encounters ravenous ghosts, beguiling demons, and dangerous sorcery she’s never experienced before.
This story mainly follows Casiopea and Hun-Kamé, but the narrative also shifted focus to Hun-Kamé’s brother, Vucub-Kamé, in Xibalba (Underworld). Moreno-Garcia uses vivid detail to create an unsettling aura around him, adding a sinister and suspenseful element to his sections of the story. Her details allowed me to imagine the dark and terrifying underworld Hun-Kamé is working so hard to return to.
I liked the characterization and development for both main characters. Casiopea was strong, but also had natural moments of fear and uncertainty. I loved her wit and I did find myself surprised by her abundance of compassion in situations that could easily strip a person of their empathy. As more time passed with the bone shard in Casiopea’s finger, Hun-Kamé slowly became less like a god physically and emotionally and more like a human. Moreno-Garcia showed these changes very subtly, but they did not go unnoticed.
Gods of Jade and Shadow is a spellbinding story that sparked my imagination with fantastical imagery and enchanting prose. I truly felt like I was reading a fairy tale and I also thoroughly enjoyed the mythological aspect of this story. I was fascinated by the supernatural abilities of different creatures and loved reading Casiopea’s reactions to seeing something that was incredibly ordinary to Hun-Kamé. I was equally entertained with Hun-Kamé’s reactions to common human emotions and behaviors he had never experienced before. I highly recommend this story for readers interested in mythology, fantasy, and history.
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