REVIEW: Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia #BLOGTOUR

Thursday, 18 July 2019

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but it's passing Casiopea Tun by. She's too busy scrubbing floors in her wealthy grandfather's house to do anything more than dream of a life far from her dusty, small town in southern Mexico. A life she could call her own.
This dream is impossible, distant as the stars - until the day Casiopea opens a curious chest in her grandfather's room and accidentally frees an ancient Mayan god of death. He offers her a deal: if Casiopea helps him recover his throne from his treacherous brother, he will grant her whatever she desires. Success will make her every dream come true, but failure will see her lost, for ever.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed only with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey, from the jungles of Yucat√°n to the bright lights of Mexico City and deep into the darkness of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow is a vibrant, visceral look at the duality of Mexican folklore; the beauty, the majesty, the elegance and the underlying and constant darkness that runs through the myths and the figures that it spawns. The novel’s main protagonist is flung unexpectedly into a world in which ghosts are real and wish to feed on the living; witches can be florists and sorcerers can run hotels - accompanied, through it all, by a Lord of Death. 
Through her interactions with the mystical figure, his characterisation and that of all of the deities in the novel, becomes a reflection of humanity, in all of its good and bad aspects, to reflect - even in its most exaggerated form - the realities of the human condition. 
Its setting in Mexico in the 1920’s only succeeds in exacerbating this duality: the expanses of newly-imported fashion trends, the constant parties and the looming reality that the decade will soon descend into the horrific, ricocheting consequences of their northern neighbour’s market crash and the Great Depression. The bright lights of a changing world is employed as a rather brilliant contrast with the darkness of Xibalba, two planes that almost exist on top of one another. I think this is because the 1920s has always been seen as a turning-point in the nature of modern history; a decade in which old traditions are pushed aside in favour of glittering new excitements. 
A generation of people who were coming of age in a very different world; one with very different rules.
This plays on the fact that, at the time of the novel’s setting, Mexican folklore has been largely forgotten and abandoned by the people who once dedicated their entire lives to them. Or rather, that older generation has died off and the one who are rising to the fold, no longer feel its pull. Therefore, God of Jade and Shadow almost becomes a sort of period urban fantasy, in which the reader sees how the old myths have shakily incorporated themselves into a world that doesn’t quite believe in them anymore. 
For all of these reasons and more, the novel’s building-blocks through the use of this mythology, means that it allows for a twisting, constantly exciting story with an unmistakably sharp-edge looming in even its most innocuous scenes.

Thanks to NetGalley, Quercus and Jo Fletcher Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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