I'll be honest: this book initially caught my eye 100% because of that truly gorgeous and vibrant cover. The title also calledThis was such a delight, I loved the setting and mythology elements so much.
I'll be honest: this book initially caught my eye 100% because of that truly gorgeous and vibrant cover. The title also called out to me rather strongly and once I read the synopsis as well I knew I had to check out this book. Books set during the Jazz Age and that take place in Mexico are not things I often see--or ever see, really--so I was really excited to see a new and exciting setting.
I really loved the setting that Moreno-Garcia developed in this book, as everything felt vibrant and full of life. Her descriptions of Mexico City, Uukumil, the Mayan underworld, and every other location mentioned were all so well done and truly allowed me to picture the locations as if I were really there. I also fell in love with the Mexican folklore that the author developed and felt a constant craving to dive back into this book and culture whenever I wasn’t reading it.
Gods of Jade and Shadow reads very much like a fairy-tale due to the method of storytelling and the progression of the plot. The initial setup of the story and how Casiopea ends up helping the gods feels very matter of fact and classic in nature, though of course Morena-Garcia makes this story entirely her own with her beautifully crafted world and descriptions. It's also very much a journey that is undertaken in specific tasks and times of "first we have to go to this place to find X, then we go to the next to get Y," and so on. It feels a bit rote when taken at a surface level, but the tasks themselves are creative and have plenty to make this setup a bit more interesting
Casiopea is an iron-willed, obstinate character and I loved seeing her grow throughout this story. I can't say that she completely changed from someone meek to someone who knows how to stand up for herself because that'd be a disservice to Casiopea. Even in the beginning of the story she maintains a constant streak of fiery attitude and stubbornness where she refuses to back down to fully to those who are "above" her and order her about. She always imparts attitude or makes her unhappiness known, but it isn't until she embarks on this journey Hun-Kame that she truly learns what she's worth and what potential the future might hold for her if she actually takes some courageous leaps of faith into the unknown future and I had such a wonderful time watching Casiopea embark upon this personal journey. A few other things that I liked about her was her extremely pragmatic mindset and her no-nonsense way of handling things; if something had to be done, she wanted to just do it and get it done with so that they could move on to their goal.
I also really enjoyed getting to know Hun-Kame, the Mayan god of death. He's a fascinating character to watch interact in the Middleworld (aka, land where live human mortals live) and his lack of much personality or comprehension of humor and other sentiments that we humans hold dear. It was particularly interesting to watch him develop in tiny, but still noticeable ways that gradually affected more of his own character and the story itself. Our other "villain" character is also well-done and provides a nice contrast to Hun-Kame, though the two also have many similarities that often led to a bit of a grey area where it's not clear if either of the two are necessarily "good," which I think adds some great tension and compelling components to the plot.
There is a bit of a romance in this book, but I'm pleased to say that it was done extraordinarily well. It's not rushed, nor does it have any "insta-love" attached, and it is instead extremely slow-moving and develops at a logical and unobtrusive pace. It's doesn't really intrude on the story itself until the latter part of the book, so it's not something that takes away from the rest of the narrative in any way.
Overall, I've given Gods of Jade and Shadow four stars! Fans of creative fairy-tales and vibrant settings will love this book....more