- Published in 2019 by Del Rey
- Format: Audiobook
- Narrator: Yetta Gottesman
- Listening Speed: 1.2x
- Listening Time: 3 exhilarating days
- Safe to say that Silvia Moreno-Garcia is becoming one of my auto-buy authors. So, when I saw that one of the Popsugar prompts was ‘a book by a Latinx author’, picking a Moreno-Garcia book was a no-brainer. Though the book is set in the Jazz age, you wouldn’t know it in the house of Casiopea Tun’s grandfather. He’s a conservative man living in a conservative town and Casiopea is a poor relation, forced to earn her keep by acting as a servant. One day, Casiopea has had enough. She no longer wants to dream of driving automobiles and dancing to fast tunes. She wants to run away to the city but, to do that, she needs money. She attempts to steal from her grandfather’s locked wooden chest but, instead of gold, she finds the imprisoned Mayan god of death. Hun-kame needs to find what has been stolen from him and reclaim his usurped throne from his brother. In return, he promises to give Casiopea everything she could ever wish for. But, his brother, Vucub-Kame, will do everything he can to stop them and, if Hun-kame fails, Casiopea will die.
- Terrific main character in Casiopea. She may be downtrodden by her family and she may have enough dignity to know that she deserves better but she doesn’t have it in her to hold a grudge for long. I love it when an author shows that kindness is not a weakness. I also love Casiopea’s character development. It takes effort but she manages to shake off her internalised self-hatred and reserve inflicted by her conservative family and community. I loved the way she slowly grows in confidence with every chapter. Hun-Kame’s character development was a little more subtle but it was still gratifying to see him lose some of his stiffness and aloofness as time went on.
- Rather unsure what to make of a story told from both Casiopea’s and Martin’s POV. Martin is, for all intents and purposes, the villain of the story who has always looked down on Casiopea for not worshipping the ground he walks on like the rest of the village. The author does their best to paint him in an unflattering light too. He’s entitled, spoiled and stupid. He’s also in way over his head, has no idea how to be anything more than a bully and knows that, outside his small village, he’s no one. I said ‘unflattering light’, not ‘outright villainy’, because, even though the reader doesn’t like what he does, they are allowed to understand why he does it. So, by the time I got to the book, I decided Martin’s POV was a good addition. It certainly added the tension as the readers were left wondering how long it will be before he catches up to Casiopea again.
- I loved the way the author painted a vivid picture of each place the characters visited on their quests. She adds both the good and the bad in her description like light and shadow on a painting. The buildings may be beautiful and the parties may be vibrant but there’s always something under the surface. Mostly racism towards the indigenous people. She shows how the Jazz Age and the influence of American media is changing attitudes, along with how revolutions have impacted society (however temporarily). I can’t speak for the historical accuracy since I know very little about Mexican history but, from what I’ve read in this book, I definitely want to know more.
- Keen to point out how beautiful the style is, as ever. This is definitely a good one to listen to on audiobook and the narrator is perfect. The pace is perfect too with just the right mix of action and slow moments.
- I loved the world building of Xibalba and of the mythical beings living among the mortals was fascinating. I couldn’t help but be reminded a little of American Gods as Casiopea and Hun-kame go on a journey through Mexican cities to meet or fight with various beings. It certainly kept the story interesting. Interspersed within the events are references to tales in Mayan myth too, especially the Maya Hero Twins, and references to poetry that I definitely want to look up later.
- Now, there is a fairly predictable romance between Casiopea and Hun-kame but, in this case, I think it was well conceived and well built-up. They turned out quite good for each other in the end.
- Got to say that I was not expecting that ending at all. I sort of felt like I’d missed something, in fact, but, looking back, I think that was the best ending possible that didn’t feel like a cop-out. It’s a real bittersweet one and rounded off the story in a way that left me very satisfied.
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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