You know the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? When I saw this book, I totally judged it. I judged it so hard, you guys. I mean, look.
And when I read that it was a fantasy that took place in Jazz-Age Mexico, I couldn’t get my money out fast enough.
The story starts out just like Cinderella, and the main character, Cassiopeia Tun, even makes mention of how similar they both are. She’s a ‘poor relation’ who is employed by her wealthy, mean-spirited grandfather and her bully of a cousin Martín. She longs for finer things, to drive in a car, to dance the trendy fast dances, and to see the ocean. She wants to get out of her town, Uukumil, just once, but there is no hope for her. She’ll end up just like her mother, slaving around Grandfather’s house, expected to be thankful for room and board.
Getting frustrated with her lot in life, she finds herself alone in her grandfather’s room. She sees the strange carved trunk that he always had but never spoke of, and thinks to finally see what is in it. She expects to find gold, silver, some kind of treasure hidden away, but she didn’t expect to see a pile of bones. Before she knows it, she pricks her thumb on a bone shard. In front of her eyes, the bones reassemble themselves into a stately, beautiful man.
But he is no man. He is Hun Kamé, Supreme Lord of Xibalba, god of death. And he requires Cassiopeia’s assistance to reclaim his throne. Or else.
The whole book was an amazing journey into Mayan mythology and Mexican history. Every page brought up something I had never heard about, but I want to learn more. Cassiopeia was a very believable character, both full of longing and born with a practicality born of necessity. She was both rebellious but also nervous about breaking social rules. (Cutting her hair short? How scandalous!) And Hun Kamé’s transition from an aloof, proud god to feeling mortal emotion was a gradual, skillfully done change.
And I don’t want to spoil the ending but it made me cry. Well done, Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I can’t wait to read more of your books.
In other news, I’m working on a map of the world in Vessels. I’ve got the lineart done, and now I’m working on the colors. I’ll try and figure out a way to print it in Venomous.
Also, I’m debating about whether or not I should include a list of characters. I saw it done in River of Stars and I found it was helpful to keep track of who was who since all the names were unusual. I think having to keep track of names like Mwarthes, Nephtet-Ka, and Eshmedi is taxing enough to warrant a cast of characters.