Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

When I first heard that Gods of Jade and Shadow: A wildly imaginative historical fantasy was coming out, I was excited to read it. I love learning about ancient Mayan culture perhaps because it is such a fascinating, rich well of culture to learn about. I was lucky enough to catch an excellent exhibition on the Mayan civilisation in Liverpool a few years ago. Read my review of this in the link below: http://culturallifeconnection.org/culture/665/

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a book set in 1920s Mexico that is interwoven with ancient Mayan myths and legends and features the gods from this canon. It is accurately described as being a feminist fairytale and tells the story of an eighteen year old girl called Casiopea who is stuck in a Cinderella type scenario. She is a skivvy to her family and is treated poorly, especially by the male members of her household. She detests her grandfather and cousin Martín in particular. She craves a life of freedom and longs to venture further than her small village of Uukumil. The nearby city of Mérida, in particular, is a place that she is keen to explore.

One day when her family are out and she is cleaning in the house alone, she opens up the trunk that her grandfather has expressly forbid her to go near. This trunk contains the bones of an Ancient Mayan god called Hun-Kamé. Her actions awaken Hun-Kamé and they are bound to each other both figuratively and literally, as a piece of his bone becomes stuck under her skin. She and Hun-Kamé embark on an adventure, this is the adventure that she yearned for but did not expect and is one full of ancient Mayan gods and demons! She becomes ever confident and brave and really evolves as a character as a result of this adventure. I can’t say anymore for want of spoiling the story, but there is danger aplenty in this world and you have to read it to find out what happens!

I love the way that the author Silvia Moreno-Garcia has woven the ancient legends throughout the story and teamed them with a woman finding her way in 1920s Mexico. The 1920s was an interesting choice of decade too. We associate this time with the act of equal suffrage in 1928 and the age of the flapper, when dresses became less restrictive and shorter and where women were breaking free from the constraints of the previous Edwardian and Victorian era. The 1920s were also a time of discovery with Ancient Egypt in particular and the archaeological finds from there which influenced the fashion and culture of the decade to a great degree. The Ancient Mayan association with this time reminded me of the parallel Egyptian association of the 1920s. Indeed, the 1920s were a time of discovery, freedom and innovation and a time when women were starting to branch out, which is an apt setting for Casiopea’s journey.

If you are a fan of magical realism, fairytales, Mayan civilisation and history in general then you will enjoy the Gods of Jade and Shadow, so make sure that you read it.

Published by

Jo Cameron-Symes

I believe cultural criticism and analysis should be both accessible and help to further enrich peoples' lives. I have an MA from the University of York in the Sociology of Contemporary Culture and was previously the Chair of a regional charity for people with long term illness. During my time as Chair I noticed that the people I met who embraced culture and used it to enrich and explore their lives found that it enhanced their quality of life. Through accessing and exploring exhibitions, media and gardens that helped people including myself to cope with their current life situation.

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