I received eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 3 stars Series: Standalone
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.
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.
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About the Author
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of 2015 by BuzzFeed and more; Certain Dark Things, a Publishers Weekly top ten; The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy of manners; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Born and brought up in Mexico, she now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Follow her on Twitter here.
This is a quiet book, feeling a little more literary than I usually like. The phrasing felt very deliberate, full of descriptions and introspection. The best way I can think of describing the reading is experience is like I was floating along, bobbing in the slight wake of a passing boat. I was more of an observer than a participant in the story.
The world is lushly imagined, and I could see the settings clearly. It was definitely my favourite part of the story, the blending of the Jazz Age with mythology. The contrast between new and old was really fun, adding to the slightly dreamlike feel of the story.
Casiopea is a very passive character, just going along with what’s happening around her. She doesn’t do much to influence the course of the story. It’s Hun-Kamé who decides what they’re doing. She protests, weakly, from time to time, but does it anyway. I would have liked to see her do a little more and influence the story more than a final burst at the end.
The POVs are quite shallow. I didn’t feel like I was in anyone’s head, but besides a narrator telling me what the characters were thinking. The distance meant I couldn’t connect easily with the characters, particularly the lead – Casiopea. For this reason, I much prefer reading deeper POV books.
There are three POVs in the books. Most of the page time is devoted to Casiopea, but her cousin Martín and the god Vacumb-Kamé also have chapters. It was a little unexpected when Martín first spoke, but it wasn’t jarring and I quickly fell into a rhythm of their chapters. As the voice was very similar (being more narrator than POV), it followed well and I almost didn’t notice the POV change.
Twice however, Martín’s chapters rehashed part of a conversation we’d seen previously from Casiopea’s perspective. There was new material either side, but it made those chapters seem a little redundant. Generally he was the lens through which to see what Vacumb-Kamé was doing to oppose Casiopea and Hun-Kamé.
If you like slower pacing and having a step back from the story, then this is a book for you.
Read my reviews of other books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia:
- THE BEAUTIFUL ONES
- MEXICAN GOTHIC
- VELVET WAS THE NIGHT
- CERTAIN DARK THINGS
- THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU
- SIGNAL TO NOISE