Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author, Silvie Moreno-
by Jarad Johnson
A blend of mythology, fairy tale and history, Gods of Jade and Shadow is captivating and original. There are many characters, events and places packed into three hundred pages, but essentially, a Mayan death god and a mortal girl embark on an adventure across Mexico, with the help of their demon friend. Yes, demon friend. We all have one of those. It’s epic in scope, and chock full of interesting mythological references. How could I resist? How could you resist?
It’s a little hard to know where to start with books like this. Should I tell you about the quest through the underworld that involved the main character almost being killed by a bat god? OR the underworld itself, and all the creepy plants and skeletal birds that populate it? The witch who owns a flower shop and demands blood as payment? Or how in the beginning of the book, a young woman opens a trunk and a naked Mayan god appears in front of her? I have to tell you, I was sorely tempted to throw open all the trunks and boxes in the house after reading that intro. Sadly, no Mayan gods without their clothing are trapped here. Sigh.
As you can probably tell, there’s a lot to unpack here. However, the plot centers around a quest, for a god to regain his power and his kingdom, with the help of the young woman who freed him. The story takes us across Mexico and into southern California. The mythology of the Mayan culture is absolutely fascinating, and there are so many facets of that culture brought to life in this book. The book asks us to imagine that the old gods still walk among us. Here, they are somewhat diminished, because people no longer sacrifice to them, but they are still there. It’s like American Gods by Neil Gaiman in that way, but (no offense Gaiman) I don’t feel like I’m on a bad acid trip at the end. I can definitively say that this was a good acid trip.
I really appreciate the level of detail as far as the mythology goes. Diving into detail in a story is one of my favorite parts of reading fantasy. I want to know everything. Seriously. If you tell me a character ate breakfast out in the garden, I will ask you what kind of plants are there and if they’re being properly looked after. You know when kids ask a million questions in under a minute, all beginning with, “why?” That basically describes my reading experience. That can be either a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. I actually think it’s a good thing when people want more from the world the author has created. It means that they enjoyed it and want to revisit it.
In this novel, you really get drawn into that world by the lucid writing. It’s not only eloquently written; it reads as very natural. What that clunky description is meant to mean is that the writing flows very well, and there are no awkward phrases that would take you out of the story. If you have to spend hours deciphering the writing, it becomes not worth the effort of reading the story. I personally don’t like authors who write like they just got a word of the day calendar as a gift. It takes away from the story, and while I’m thrilled that you’re the only person on planet earth who has memorized the Oxford Dictionary and wishes to dazzle your readers with linguistic abilities, throwing together a word salad of wherefores and hithertos does not a good novel make. Not to say that you should only use monosyllables, but there’s a way to make it flow like a river, and there’s a way to make it a stagnant pond. This story is a river.
That said, it is very fast paced. You have to know that going in. It is a more fairy tale-based storyline, so many of the transitions between events might be termed unbelievable. For example, when the girl opens the chest and discovers a Mayan god in her house, she just goes with him. There’s not a lot of hesitation, and there really can’t be, as this event is the catalyst of the entire novel. Things like don’t really bother me because it’s a fantasy novel. No, I would not just leave with a strange man for a quest across the country without a fair amount of hesitation (actually, I might do that. It sounds fun. But you probably wouldn’t, and that’s really the point here). Again, this is fantasy and fairy tale, so you’re supposed to suspend your disbelief anyway. Just don’t do that in real life. It can be dangerous.
Overall, I really, really, loved this book. I want to read everything Moreno-Garcia has ever written; I was that taken in by his writing. For me, writing makes the story, and this writing is captivating. Enthralling. And I can’t wait to read much more.
Jarad recently graduated from college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He is passionate about gardening and all related topics and has spent several years writing about this passion. He has been gardening for 6 years and believes that Nature is our greatest teacher. He majored in English with a concentration in literature and plans to pursue and master’s degree in Ecocriticism.