Summary: The Mayan God of Death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore, for readers of The Song of Achilles and Uprooted. Here we shall begin to tell a story: a tale of a throne lost, of monsters and magic. A tale of gods and of the shadow realm. But this, our story, it begins in our world, in the land of mortals. It begins with a woman. For this story, it is her story. It begins with her. 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. Mixing the excitement of the Roaring Twenties with Prehispanic mythology, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a vivid, wildly imaginative historical fantasy.
Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow follows Casiopea, a young woman who lives in her mother’s childhood home. She’s treated like a servant, tasked with cleaning the house, attending to her grandfather and her cousin, Martin. Everyone, aside from her mother, treat her as less than because of who her father was. He wasn’t ‘good enough’ for Casiopea’s mother, so she is treated like she isn’t good enough for her family. All Casiopea dreams of is escaping the small town she’s stuck in and then suddenly, one night, she must leave. She pricks her hand on a bone shard she finds in her grandfather’s room. A bone shard that turned out to be Hun-Kame, a Mayan death god that was trapped, and now needs Casiopea’s help in reclaiming his throne from his brother. This really was a beautiful story. The writing was beautiful and almost melodic. The pace of the story wasn’t so slow that I lost focus, but it also wasn’t a super-fast paced story either. I really liked the pacing of the story. It allowed me to feel like I was really getting to know the characters which was good because I could have easily felt left outside this beautiful story because of the world building and mythology. But it’s written in a way that I really felt like I got to know Casiopea, her dreams and wants, and how those things change the more time she spends with Hun-Kame. Casiopea was an incredibly courageous character. She does things that she’s afraid to do, but she does them anyway because she believes they’re the right thing to do. Doing what you believe is the right thing is usually the hard thing to do. I really liked the development of the relationship between Casiopea and Hun-Kame. I feel like we didn’t get to know him as well as we did Casiopea, but I liked him all the same. The world building and mythology was just as good as the characters. The Mayan mythology was lush and fascinating. It’s not a mythology I know much about, so it felt like a whole new fantastical world for me, but it was incredibly interesting to be immersed in. Moreno-Garcia paints an incredibly vivid picture of all the magic and myths in the story. I just couldn’t get enough. Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I had a great time getting to know the characters and getting invested in them and their journey. I really loved the settings and the mythology. I would definitely recommend this one.
Summary: They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis—neighbors call her the Witch of Oldhouse—and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip. When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him. But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina—and himself—that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins. The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal, and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Beautiful Ones follows Antonina or Nina during her debut Grand Season. I believe this is set in a fictional city, but I honestly couldn’t say for sure as its all written so realistically. The settings are perfectly described to set each scene. Antonina falls in love with Hector, but what she doesn’t know is that Hector is only back in town to see Valerie. Valerie is Nina’s cousin through marriage. Nina doesn’t know if Valerie and Hector’s past together, so when Hector isn’t showing that he reciprocates her feelings, she’s unsure what to do. When she finds out about their past, it breaks her heart. The story then jumps forward a year to the next Grand Season where things get interesting once again. I really liked Nina and literally no one else in this book. Nina is an unusual girl. She collects beetle and butterfly specimens. She is an outdoorsy girl, which isn’t something that’s acceptable for a lady. She also displays telekinetic powers (again, not something acceptable for a lady). What I liked the most about her was that she didn’t really care that much about what was deemed okay or not by society. She was often hurt by others speaking badly of her, but not enough to change for them. I liked that about her. I thought Luc was a very bland character (but I think that was on purpose? It felt like that was on purpose because of plot things.) I honestly hated Valerie and was very satisfied with the way the story ended for her. She deserved way worse. I could understand why she did some of the things that she did, but the author made it so easy to hate her. Finally, Hector. I honestly didn’t like him for most of the book. I think Hector as a character speaks to Moreno-Garcia’s writing abilities in such a positive way. He’s only in town because he loves Valerie and dreadfully hurts Nina. But he learns from that experience and grows. Even though this was a relatively short book, that growth is shown so well. We get to see the two become friends again and see things go from there. It didn’t feel rushed or forced. The author made it all feel natural and organic. The writing of this book is what saved it for me. I explained the characters above. But honestly the strength of these feelings is pretty weak. I don’t know that I’ll even be thinking of them still in a few weeks. But they writing in this book is beautiful. It’s lyrical without being flowery. The settings are so well described without taking away from the plot or the characters. Overall, I liked this book. It was an average read for me. It won’t be making any favorites lists from me. But I enjoyed it while I was reading it. It is absolutely a romance story but I think it really tells a story about wealth and how having it or lacking it can change people. I think this will be a huge hit for many people, it just didn’t completely hit the mark for me.
A darkly enchanting reimagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a spirited young woman discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico. Review: Mexican Gothic is a dark and atmospheric story that centers around family. Noemi is sent to the Mexican countryside to make sure her cousin Catalina is okay. Noemi’s father received a distressing letter from Catalina, who moved to the countryside to live with her new husband on his family’s estate. Her father sends Noemi to High Place to see Catalina for herself and make sure her cousin is alright. I really liked Noemi. She definitely doesn’t want to say once she sees High Place, but she does what’s right for her cousin. She seeks answers, but doesn’t even know if she’s asking the right questions. I liked that she was persistent and didn’t let this weird ass family push her around, much.
This story is creepy as soon as Noemi gets to High Place. The property and house are neglected and the family members are also creepy. Catalina’s husband, Virgil is immediately unlikable. He’s brash and scary, at times. I immediately didn’t like Virgil and didn’t understand why Catalina married him. I couldn’t help but be as worried about Catalina as Noemi was. Every time Noemi sat with Catalina, there were more questions than answers. That was a theme with this book. There were so many questions, which was a great way to build suspense and lead up to the big reveal. Moreno-Garcia did an excellent job of leaving the reader wondering what the hell was actually going on.
Overall, this was a creepy as hell story that I absolutely devoured. The writing was stunning and descriptive, painting a vivid and horrifying picture. The setting was atmospheric and perfectly spooky. I loved Noemi and Catalina. I hated Virgil and most of his family. I highly recommend this book and I will absolutely be reading more books by this author.