This was last month’s Book of the Month Club selection whose synopsis grabbed my attention right from the get-go. I just couldn’t resist a book was the words “Mayan Death God” and “1920’s” in the description and turned out to be a delightful Mayan folklore story chock full of mythology.
Gods of Jade and Shadow is a standalone fantasy story that takes place during the Jazz Age in the Roaring ’20s and follows a young woman named Casiopea Tun who lives in Yucatán, Mexico. She and her mother are considered the poor relations and are pretty much servants, spending their days slaving away for their wealthy and tyrannical grandfather.
So one day, she discovers that her grandfather has left the key for the strange wooden trunk in his room, a trunk that has always remained locked. Unable to resist her curiosity, Casiopea opens the chest and inadvertently releases the Mayan god of Death, Hun-Kamé, who was apparently imprisoned in the trunk.
We learn that Hun-Kamé was the king of his realm and his twin brother, Vucub-Kamé, trapped him in the trunk and stole the kingdom, which is their Underworld called Xibalba, which is basically the land of Death. So Hun-Kamé, the rightful king and Supreme Lord of Xilbalba, requests Casiopea’s help in getting back his throne. Well, I shouldn’t say request — as it turns out, she doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter (for reasons I won’t go into).
Now the kicker is, is that if she fails, she dies. But if she succeeds, her deepest desire can come true. What follows is a harrowing journey as Casiopea, along with the handsome yet commanding death-god, embark on a treacherous adventure into Mexico City and subsequently into the dark Underworld, and along the way, encounter all manner of gods, demons and creatures.
I love a book where there’s an adventurous quest, and this one didn’t disappoint. From what I understand, this story is a fairytale-inspired by Mexican folklore. Now don’t worry if your knowledge of Mayan history and culture is lacking, as the author lays it all out in an easy-to-understand and compelling manner — there’s even a handy glossary in the back of the book. All the details you need are worked seamlessly into the action.
The prose in the story is luxurious, lyrical, and incredibly imaginative with vivid descriptions, a truly magical plot and a vast arrayP of exciting and complex characters. I loved the otherworldly, fairytale aspect to this tale and found it utterly enchanting. The blending of the old Mayan myths, legends, and gods with the new lifestyle of the 1920s really worked well for me.
I also thought that the world-building was terrific! It was so much fun to immerse myself into it and watch as the story slowly expanded it. The vibrant world that the author created here in this story was magical, captivating, twisty, and compelling yet also dark and dangerous. I felt that the detail that went into the storytelling here really brought it to life — at least it did for me.
I loved Casiopea’s character and felt she’s a phenomenal heroine. She’s feisty, headstrong, brave, determined, defiant, proud and refuses to take crap from anyone — even from Death himself — and I found myself falling in love with her more and more as the story progressed.
All in all, I loved this inventive and addictive story. It was elegantly written and well-constructed, with an evocative and gripping plot that I found fascinating. I thought that the author seamlessly blended the real and the mythic in a way that was a joy to read.
It also had a satisfying character arc for both of our protagonists, which I appreciated as both of them really changed and grew throughout the story. There was also an exceptional chemistry between the two main characters, which only increased as the story progressed.
So yeah, I loved the book, and I hope to read more of this author’s work.