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Take a trip into a dark, Mayan fairytale with “Gods of Jade & Shadow”

European fairytales were so last season, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mayan-inspired story is the most dazzling of tales this season.

Casiopiea’s Cinderella-esque life under her grandfather’s strict reign turns topsy-turvy when she discovers a locked chest containing (most of) the bones of Hun-Kame, a Mayan god of death. After freeing the Lord of Xilbaba, Casiopiea’s life is linked to him and thrown into an ancient quest of revenge to reclaim Hun-Kame’s throne from his twin brother Vucub-Kame.

Set in 1920s Mexico and the Jazz Age, Moreno-Garcia grabs readers by the hand and plunges into the vivid world of Mayan mythology with plenty of magic, demons, and gods along the way.

This novel isn’t your usual Disney fairytale–blood sacrifices, murder, and desperate spirits run rampant in this dark tale. In a world where Euro-centric stories are highly recycled and revisited, it’s refreshing to dive into the dark world of Xilbaba and Mayan mythology without feeling gimmicky. Moreno-Garcia’s take on Mayan myths and gods is based on a combination of retellings, as she reveals in the Author’s Note. Despite not sticking to one interpretation, the gods and myths woven into “Gods of Jade & Shadow” are gloriously written and out-shine any modern retelling of mythology.

Our Cinderella, Casiopiea, isn’t the push-over Disney’s princess seems to be as the young woman journeys across Mexico and the American Southwest with Hun-Kame. Hungry for freedom–but terrified of the ramifications–Casiopiea’s emotional journey through her insecurities and fears feels more of a coming-of-age story than a lesson in revenge and mortality. The death god versus fiery young woman dynamic can only be described in three words: clever, dark, and heartbreaking (no spoilers here!).

If you’ve ever read Moreno-Garcia’s other works, you won’t be disappointed with the writing of “Gods of Jade & Shadow.” Her wondrous descriptions of Xilbaba and Mexico tickle that part of my brain that lives for the rich, details that only the best writers can replicate. Just the details of Xilbaba will make readers believe the Mayan underworld is real and begging for a visit. Only Moreno-Garcia could make walking down a street a religious experience.

Step aside, Disney; there’s a new coming-of-age story in town begging for a movie adaptation that will rival all of your mythological stories.

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