Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Rating: 3 Stars
Dates read: 04 Aug 19 – 14 Aug 19
Publication date: 23 Jul 2019
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology
The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.
*I was given an eARC of this book courtesy of Jo Fletcher Books/Quercus and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review*
I was super excited when I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley. I really love reading about myth and legend from different cultures interwoven into new stories, and I am fascinated by Mayan history. This sounded like it would have been a perfect blend, but for some reason it fell a little short for me.
I really liked the mythical elements that were seamlessly incorporated into the story. The 1920’s Mexican setting was the perfect back drop for the story that the author was telling and as she clearly had researched the time/place, and has a knowledge of Mayan culture, the setting and mythology held true throughout the narrative. While the story was magical and featured non-reality based Gods and themes, it held up flawlessly under it’s own logic and was easy to follow and understand as someone who is not from or has never visited the region. The author also incorporated local place names, shortenings, and words that are synonymous with the region without losing understanding or complexity (and has included a glossary at the back if anything should slip under your comprehension).
I enjoyed the battle between the Gods/brothers that fuelled the plot. They were a great example of a protagonist and antagonist being two sides of the same coin. Their wants and hopes are pretty much identical, and it really illustrated the idea that no matter how good or bad a character seems to the reader, they are always the hero of their own story. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from pitting them against each other and showing the reader that they were seeking identical things, just in completely different ways. I did like their relationships with the other characters to a degree, but felt like they were the strongest characters in the book.
I didn’t love the main character Casiopea, and as much of the plot tracks her and Hun-Kamé’s battle to stop Vucub-Kamé, it was a bit of a shame. The God was constantly telling us how brave and heroic the young woman was, but as he had literally impaled her with a piece of bone to suck her life force, it felt a little like she was a passenger in her own story and didn’t actually have the power or bravery that we were being told she had. I found her family dynamic unpleasant and as such didn’t like the interactions with her family members, especially her cousin, very enjoyable to read. I know this was probably a point the author was making, but I didn’t feel like it added much. The same goes for the romantic element to the relationship, which I felt was needlessly added and detracted from the ending of the book.
My main sticking point was the seemingly long time the book took to read. I know it was written in the style of translated mythology, and I admire the author’s attempt at doing this, but for me it dampened a book that was full of action into something that seemed to drag a lot. I really enjoyed elements of the story and the characters, so feel like the writing style was the element I didn’t like. It isn’t bad, it just slowed the story, but as it is a nod to the translation style and culture, I still think it somewhat works with the book.
I feel unusually unattached to this book. I probably would still recommend it because I did ultimately like sections of it, but I’d be wary about who I recommended it to. I enjoyed being able to read a book about Mexican and Mayan culture/history from someone from and raised in that region, and feel like it is a great example of the region from someone completely outside. It was what it said it would be, it didn’t exceed any expectations, but it remains a beautiful looking book containing a new fresh, if a little slow, story.