By Cynthia Bujnicki
Casiopea lives in a small town of Southern Mexico, a servant in her grandfather’s house who daydreams of a life far away from her family and her small town. When she accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan God of Death, Casiopea embarks on a journey that awakens the wonder within her, the only light that will keep her safe in the Mayan Underworld.
Gods of Jade and Shadow is a beautiful novel and excellent take on the fairy-tale tropes. Casiopea is much like Cinderella, a servant to her family who does not think much of her. However, she is no Cinderella, not really. Casiopea is a compelling character, a character who dreams and obeys but offers silent ways of disobeying those who vilify her. Following her journey, Casiopea opens up, and there is vulnerability to her as the story develops, making her a well-rounded and relatable character. She is a balanced character, feisty and outspoken yet poised as well. Casiopea has a formidable voice, but internally and externally as she drives the story forward, she grows as a character and discovers truths about herself and the world around her.
Other than Casiopea, the story offers a complex narrative regarding Martin. Martin is at first, wholly unlikable, portrayed as the villain, but he is more complicated than that, and as a character, he grows through his trials. He is a perfect foil for Casiopea, and the dichotomy between the characters gives the novel a rich representation to it.
The story itself is also as engaging as the characterization. Set during the Jazz Age, the language and color of the time trickle in through the story, growing the more Casiopea travels. This evolution of music and time goes hand in hand with her self-discovery and works to track the voyage of the characters. It has vivid color to it, both to the language used and the description of the scenes. The reader can imagine the world effortlessly as Garcia captures this historical piece of Mexico with beauty. However, the added effect of the Mayan history, the mythology to it, gives the story a fresh feel to it. It makes the novel unique as it spins this story to life, following the characters along their respective journeys.
Culturally appropriate, this novel captures the heart of Mexico and its history. (★★★★☆)