Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

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.

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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.

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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.

3 Overdue Book Reviews

I am an awful human being. I yearn for more book reviews of my own, and yet I’ve let the books that I’ve finished go without reviews of their own. No more. Here are the books that I’ve needed to review for a while now.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Okay, I love fantasy. I really do, but I’m tired of the same old tropes. Cool brave white dude defeats impossible odds with his sword, wins the heart of the sexy elf/princess/dragon in lady form? And saves the kingdom.

Fantasy can be so much more than just the tried-and-true medieval European setting. This is why I was excited to pick up River of Stars. It takes place in a land clearly based on China’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It was very low-magic, which is something I liked, with the main conflicts being solved with sword and bow, and clever political manipulation.

However, I couldn’t help but feel like everything came too easily to the main character, Ren Daiyan. He was geared up to be a child of destiny, the one who would win back the lost prefectures of Kitai from the warmongering Xiaolu. All his plans, all his efforts went perfectly and the only conflict he faced was from his own court. He could do no wrong.

Some might call the resolution of the book a letdown, and I felt that way at first. Then I realized that Kay had set us up to believe we knew the inevitable ending, and let us know that things don’t always turn out as planned. Then I was okay with it. I will definitely read more from this author.

John Goblikon’s Guide to Living Your Best Life

As a massive fan of Nekrogoblikon, I had to preorder this book when it was announced, and I was not disappointed. You see, John Goblikon is a goblin...from outer space...who sells insurance but also is the mascot/hype man/best band member of the metal band Nekrogoblikon. He’s even got his own show.

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The book was, at times, inspiring, but mostly it was full of laugh-out-loud moments. I read it in one sitting and afterwards, I did as John said and went to Chili’s.

When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

Wearin Nefertiti’s hat, felt cute

Wearin Nefertiti’s hat, felt cute

I don’t read much nonfiction, but I absolutely love ancient Egypt, so I picked up this book while at an exhibit at the National Geographic museum. I am so glad I did. Cooney is, of course, very knowledgeable about the goings-on of ancient Egypt, but she also has a casual and accessible writing style. I never felt I was being lectured to. She explained events that happened so long ago and gave them a modern-day equivalent to really hit it home. I learned about six queens of Egypt who rose to power because a woman’s rule was what the country needed at the time, and I just wonder when America will get to that point.


Okay, I’m all caught up with my reviews. I’ll be sure to put these on Goodreads and Amazon, of course. Am I a book blogger now? I don’t think I’ll make reviewing books the main focus of my website, but I want to be a good literary citizen, so I’ll post the reviews here.

Maori by Alan Dean Foster: An Angry Review

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My thoughts when I selected this book, “Oh look. A book about the Maori. I don't know much about them. How's about I pick up this one? It says 'Maori' right there on the cover.”

It should have been called British Bro's Wild New Zealand Ride. It's all from the perspective of the British colonists who warred with the Maori until they won like they always did. Details about the Maori traditions and way of life were sprinkled meagerly throughout the story and were the only things keeping me interested in this plodding soap opera.

I didn't like the main character, Robert Coffin. So he's got a wife in England, but he hangs around New Zealand for the whaling industry, and oh by the way, he's got an Irish mistress and two whole children by her. But then his English wife comes by and he drops the Irish woman. To his credit, at least he wants to set her and the children up somewhere for him to take care of financially. But then he just dips out when she had the audacity to get mad at him. How dare she?

Then, years later, he happens to exchange glances with the daughter of a Maori chief and they immediately fall in love, and he knocks her up. But she's even better than the poor Irish woman because she's totally fine with being kept as a servant in one of his houses. Finally. Robert Coffin got the bang maid he always wanted.

At the very least, he got what he deserved in the end. And by that, I mean he was sad. Oh, and Mount Tarawera erupts, which really did happen in real life. The end.