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Review: Gods of Jade & Shadow

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

2/5 stars

This book is set in the 1920's in Mexico, but mostly it draws on ancient Mayan myths and legends to tell it's story. The protagonist, a girl of 18 named Casiopea, comes from a well-to-do family, but her mother disgraced them by marrying below their class, so Casiopea and her mother are servants in the family home. That is until she happens upon the key to a wooden chest in her grandfather's room, and frees a god of death, Hun-Kamé, who has been trapped there for decades. The two leave to embark upon a quest to find the god's missing bits and pieces - an ear, an eye, and a jade necklace - and take back the throne from his treacherous brother.

I enjoyed the story, but overall it felt underdeveloped. The locations in the book are really rich and interesting, but the main characters move from one to the other so quickly that I never really felt like I got to appreciate them. Same goes for some of the supporting characters. And I never quite believed the relationships that sprout up... the love interest, the quarrel between brothers. I never felt like any of it was justified.

I don't think this book is classified as a Young Adult novel, but it very much felt like one to me. That's not a value judgement, as I often really love YA books! They can be very complex and thoughtful. This one just had a young-reader feel to it (and not just because the protagonist is a teenager, as that is not the mark of a YA novel).

Also? I recently watched a documentary about the ancient Mayan civilization, and was therefore kind of annoyed at how much the book referred to their sacrificial rituals and "blood lust," when in actuality that was not a huge part of their culture.


UP NEXT: The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton

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