Gods of Jade and Shadow

 Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

In a remote Mexican village in the 1920s, Casiopea Tun is the poor cousin, made to skivvy for the rest of the extensive household run by her autocratic, though frail, grandfather.  Cousin Martín, the heir apparent, is especially nasty to Casiopea since she isn't servile enough to suit him.  And then she notices an old trunk in her grandfather's room, and opens it.  Inside is a pile of old bones, but once freed, they assemble themselves into... Hun-Kamé, Lord of Xibalba, the Mayan god of death.

Hun-Kamé recruits Casiopea to his quest -- to find and reclaim his missing pieces, and to defeat his younger brother, Vucub-Kamé, who imprisoned him and usurped the Xibalban throne.  Well, maybe not so much a recruiting...although Casiopea is up for an adventure, she also has to go along.  A splinter of Hun-Kamé's bone lodged in her hand, and soon it will kill her.  Likewise, while her drop of blood revived Hun-Kamé, it also rendered him just a little bit mortal.  If they don't succeed, neither will survive.

Meanwhile, Vucub-Kamé is marshaling his forces for the battle.  Old Grandfather is too frail to help, but he orders Martín to take his place, follow Casiopea's trail, and force her to come home.  All the family wealth and power is the reward for devotion to Vucub-Kamé, and his loss will be theirs.

Mayan magic and modern Mexico swirl and blend as Casiopea travels across the land -- just like she always wanted! -- chained to the company of a god-man who doesn't understand humans (maybe not quite living the dream).  She starts to understand that Vucub-Kamé has always been forced into the subservient role she hated so much, while Hun-Kamé, like Martín, simply assumed that subservience was his obvious due.  Is there any way out of this pattern?

 I really enjoyed this YA novel, which mines the Popol Vuh for lots of material, not just the brothers' names.  (A favorite detail: the dreaded Kamazotz, the death-bat, makes an appearance!)  I thought it was a lot of fun, and did some great things with mythology.  Silvia Moreno-Garcia is being quite prolific these days, I can't keep up, but I would like to read Mexican Gothic as well.

The title could have been better, though.  I wonder who had the idea for the X of Y and Z formula; did a publisher insist upon it as the latest thing?


  1. (point of order, I don't think it's a YA novel, I believe it lives in the adult section)

    I really enjoyed this a lot too, and I can't recommend Mexican Gothic highly enough. It's easily my favorite of Moreno-Garcia's books thus far! Though I haven't read Velvet Is the Night yet.

    1. Really, you figure it's an adult novel? Hrm, I must ponder that. Looking forward to Mexican Gothic!

  2. I bet I can come up with a better title just from your description, "The subservience cycle" "How to clean your bones" "Casiopea Tun and the Lord of Xibalba" "Autistic Gods"

    1. Ooo, I think I like "How to clean your bones" best!


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