Last year I talked about why a book called Mexican Gothic worked. It turned out to be one of my favorite books of 2020. It was good enough to convince me I needed to lay hands on every other book Sylvia Moreno-Garcia ever wrote or will write. On the off chance she reads this review, I am a fan for life, girl.
Fan for life.
Gods of Jade and Shadows was next on my list from her. Published in 2019, it’s not a new book. Nor is it very old. It was impossible to put down.
Let’s break down why Gods of Jade and Shadow works. Because boy, does it work. And I think we’d all like to see more books like this on the shelves.
If you haven’t read it yet, the story is about a god of death named Hun-Kame. Well, really the story is about a young woman named Casiopea. Her family is horrible to her. She and her mother are treated as poor relations. She wants nothing more than to run away and never have to see them again. Then she finds the bones of Hun-Kame in a box in her grandfather’s room.
The story is like a modern-day fairy tale. Like a greek fable, but with gods most people haven’t heard of. Hun-Kame has to battle his brother to regain his throne. But as they are gods, they can’t battle themselves. So they have to choose champions to battle for them. Hun-Kame choses Casiopea. His brother chooses her cousin. They have to race through the land of the dead to decide who will sit on the throne.
One thing you don’t see a lot of in fables is character growth if the character happens to be a god. But that’s not the case here. I don’t want to ruin anything, but Hun-Kame is forced to look at his past actions. He’s forced to grow. Which is something I think we need to see more of.
It should surprise no one that there’s a lot of heat between the two main characters. Like smoldering heat. It has some sexy, sexy parts.
But there’s no sex! There’s nothing I’d be worried about if my grandmother caught me reading. I wish we had more ghost pepper hot scenes in fantasy stories that aren’t cringy sexy.
Finally, let’s talk about the ending. I’m going to do this carefully, as I don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s not a perfect fairy tale ending. The thing I wanted to happen didn’t happen. But it is so satisfying. It’s everything that needed to happen, and it couldn’t be happier.
All in all, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a great read. And other authors would do well to learn why it works.