Overview (No Spoilers):
Over the past several years I’ve seen Moreno-Garcia’s novels showing up all over my social media with vibrant, eye-catching covers. Despite her novels spanning a wide range of genres, I hadn’t found the time to pick up one of her novels until I found out Moreno-Garcia was going to be at an event in Michigan. After a frantic dash to get a babysitter lined up (Thanks Dad), I binge read Gods of Jade and Shadow and Mexican Gothic prior to the anticipated talk. Having been immersed so heavily in fantasy, mainly grimdark, Moreno-Garcia’s fast paced reads were a welcome and refreshing change.
Gods of Jade and Shadow takes place in 1920s Mexico, with a young Casiopea fraying under the demands of her Grandfather’s household hierarchy, where she and her mother are treated little better than servants. Casiopea particularly clashes with the entitled, favored grandson, Martin Leyva who antagonizes her endlessly. After one of these encounters, Casiopea is forced to remain alone at home with a long list of housework as the rest of her family leaves on an excursion. While alone, Casiopea opens a mysterious box in her grandfather’s room and awakens an adventure of a lifetime filled with danger, mystery, and freedom.
I highly enjoyed listening to Gods of Jade and Shadow, eager to press play every time I had to pause the audiobook. That said, despite the premise being a fascinating merging of mythology and the roaring 20s, I found the overall depth, both of the characters and the world at large to be rather one dimensional. Leaning into the story, much of the unbelievable adventure that Casiopea finds herself on is taken at face value, with minimal reflection on consequences or shear unbelievability of the situations. For example, only once did she ponder on what her disappearance meant for her mother, moreover her mother never even crossed Casiopea’s mind regarding the path she would embark upon at the end of the book. Additionally, none of the characters contains the level of depth to connect with me as the reader, which had the trickle down effect of causing suspenseful situations to be mitigated as I was not invested in the outcomes. I fully acknowledge that I’m stewing on the negatives regarding worldbuilding and character development, however these points should serve to highlight the power of the story itself as it carried much of the weight of this novel, keeping the reader hooked as young Casiopea finds herself caught up in a battle between unusual brothers.
One interesting aspect of this story that felt like a wrong note every time it is brought up is that the one brother had been trapped for 50 years, and this timeframe is referenced several times as a ‘long time’ for this god. Half a century seems like it would be a blink of an eye for immortal beings, with such tropes usually spanning several hundred years if not millennia. In a way, this reduced time span was refreshing for its uniqueness, but also gave Moreno flexibility to have characters still alive that were involved in the initial trickery.
Overall, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a fast paced story that rips a young woman from the life she is chafing at and catapults her into family drama involving powerful, immortal beings.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- Talk about that ending. Such a race, especially with Martin having all the advantages. It did feel a bit cheap that Hun-kame brought Casiopea back to life, but her sacrifice in general was also rather rushed as I didn’t realize what was happening in real time.
- What will happen to the Leyva family? Will they lose their favor? Will Martin return to the fold?
- What will happen to Casiopea’s mother? Will she reach out to her mom and let her know she is ok?
- Now that Hun-Kame forgave his brother will the cycle be broken? It was interesting to see the links between Hun-Kame and Martin vs. Vacub-Kame and Casiopea.
- I wanted more description and depth to the Black Road and the horrors/wonders witnessed on the challenge.
- What mischief will Loray and Casiopea find next?
- I enjoyed the wide array of fantastical elements to this novel from sorcerers, demons, and spirits.