Gods of Jade and Shadow Chapters 23-35

Today we’ll be finishing up our SFF Read-Along of Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This section will cover chapters 23 through 35. 

If you’ve missed the first two installments of our read-along, you can view them here:

We have quite a lot to talk about today, so let’s get into it!

Plan Against Waning Gods

In the last read-along, we discussed how Hun-Kamé started to display more mortal tendencies. He slept, he dreamed, and he ate food, all of which he never would have done had he been full-god. 

But now, as Casiopea and Hun-Kamé ride yet another train on their way to Baja California, Hun-Kamé seems to be fighting hard against the mortality in him. At one point he calls it a “taint” and plans on removing it as soon as possible. 

More than that, he dismisses Casiopea’s plight as less than his. The fact that she left her whole life behind to help him doesn’t seem to hold up to his own plight, which is having been overthrown by his brother. 

Once again, we see Casiopea as the stalwart companion, even though she’s constantly giving to Hun-Kamé for the promise of very little. He says that at the end of their journey he’ll make sure she’s rewarded with all her desires, but she starts to question if he’ll follow through. 

Regardless, she knows that her other options aren’t nearly as good, as Hun-Kamé’s brother, Vucub-Kamé plans on erecting a temple in Baja California and sacrificing human lives to fuel his growing empire. 

Hun-Kamé reveals to Casiopea that the whole journey, their trek out of Uukumil through Merida and Mexico City, has all been part of his brother’s plan. And if that’s not a sobering fact, I don’t know what is. 

A Single Sigh

So we’ve already gone through a bunch of Chapter 23 in the last section, but we need to talk about the sigh. 

Casiopea tells Hun-Kamé about her daydreams, dreams of them riding in automobiles together, and despite Hun-Kamé’s previous harshness, he softens. He holds her hand and almost goes in for a kiss, and it’s a whole drawn out, agonizing scene, but in a good way. 

But they don’t kiss, instead they touch heads and sigh. “The things you name do grow in power, but others that are not ever whispered claw at one’s heart anyway, rip it to shreds even if a syllable does not escape the lips. The silence was hopeless in any case, since something escaped the god, anyway: a sigh to match the girl’s own.”

In the next chapter, Vucub-Kamé uses his gift of prophecy and his magic owls to listen in on Casiopea and Hun-Kamé, and he hears the sigh. He knows his brother is growing less godly each passing day, and is falling into mortal emotions, and he plans on using it against him.

There’s an interesting dynamic at play with the idea of godliness and mortality. Hun-Kamé seems to be at war with himself, fighting the mortality creeping up on him, but also embracing it, as evident by the sigh. Vucub-Kamé knows this and plans to make the fight more difficult for his brother. Casiopea doesn’t seem to know what to feel about it quite yet, but that soon changes. 

Race Along The Black Road

Skipping ahead a little bit here, we finally see Casiopea and Hun-Kamé reach their destination, and they are greeted by Martín and the Uay Chivo’s brother, Anibal. The pair are welcomed into Vucub-Kamé’s mock temple, a casino, and once again Martín tries to convince Casiopea that she must abandon Hun-Kamé else the whole family will suffer. 

Casiopea refuses, of course, and her and Hun-Kamé have a meeting with his brother, in which a race is proposed. Whoever can make it to the Jade Palace along the Black Road of Xibalba first wins, except it’s a race between Casiopea and Martín not Hun-Kamé and Vucub-Kamé.

It’s a dangerous challenge, and rigged from the start, since Martín has been training with Anibal to know the Black Road’s tricks. 

Before Casiopea agrees to the race, she and Hun-Kamé go down to the ocean and talk it out. This scene is probably one of the most powerful in the whole book, as it’s the breaking point for emotions that have built up over the course of the journey. 

Hun-Kamé, whose mortality is stronger than ever, begs Casiopea to stay with him, for them both to lead normal, mortal lives. That part was predictable, and we certainly saw it coming after the sigh scene. But what Casiopea does is far less predictable. We’ve seen her desires build up over the course of the story too, but in a much more muted way. Going into this turning point. I wasn’t really sure how she’d choose. 

Casiopea says, “Life may not be fair, but I must be fair. I cannot turn away,” in which she refers to Vucub-Kamé’s bloody plan at world domination. After, she admits she doesn’t feel like a hero, but even Hun-Kamé admits that she is. She chooses the hard path, even though she knows if she succeeds she won’t get what she wants. And that’s one of the truest lessons of the whole book, and it couldn’t have been framed in a better way. 

A World Set Right

There’s certainly more we could discuss about the ending of the novel–about the Great Caiman, Martín’s ill-conceived murder attempt, and Vucub-Kamé’s suddent change of heart–but overall, the story ends in a good way. We’re not handed a perfect ending. It’s not even a particularly happy ending for Casiopea, but she manages to come out unscathed, and better off than she was when she started. 

The only part that I can’t shake is when Loray rolls up outside Tierra Blanca in Anibal’s car, ready to pick up Casiopea. He’s a demon, and he did smei-conspire against Hun-Kamé, but he shows up as a friend. It’s a bit odd, simply because he appeared for one chapter at the start of the novel. But, it’s a nice final scene, with Loray and Casiopea becoming traveling companions as they wander their way through the world. 

And Casiopea finally gets to drive her automobile, albeit without Hun-Kamé, but she’s happy nevertheless. 

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It could have ended in a much more cliche way, but it has integrity and tact, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of mythology and urban fantasy. 

Thanks for joining us for this first SFF-Read-Along! If you have any book suggestions for the next installment, or if you’d like to suggest improvements leave a comment down below. 

SFF Read-Along: Gods of Jade and Shadow Ch. 12-22

In our first installment of SFF Read-Along, we started reading Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. We were introduced to Casiopea Tun, our not-so-Cinderella heroine, and her odd traveling companion, Hun-Kamé, the deposed Lord of the Dead. 

When last we saw Casiopea and Hun-Kamé, they had gotten help from the demon Loray, and were on their way to Mexico City in search of Hun-Kamé’s severed finger. But, Casiopea’s cousin is hot on their heels, the newest servant of Vucub-Kamé. 

To catch up on our first SFF Read-Along, you can do so here. This portion of the read-along will cover chapters 12 through 22.

Lady Tun, Ghost Channeler

One of the biggest conventions of Gods of Jade and Shadow so far has been Casiopea’s willingness to go along with stuff. Leaving Uukumil, traveling with Hun-Kamé, considering Loray’s offer to cut off her hand to kill Hun-Kamé, etc. 

But, this contrasts pretty drastically with her character. Casiopea, even from the earliest pages, comes off as determined, strong-willed, and stubborn. Sure, she does her chores with a grumble, but she definitely wouldn’t if she put her mind to it. 

So when Hun-Kamé asks for her hair in order to summon ghosts, she obviously resists. Afterall, despite her desire to become part of the roaring 1920s glitz and glamor, she’s not ready to give up her hair. 

At this point, she “grew angrier…at the whole universe, which, as usual, demanded that she be the lowest rung of the ladder. She had thought her position had changed when she’d left Uukumil, but it had not.”

And this sentiment is important, as it comes to fruition later. Despite Hun-Kamé’s relative kindness toward Casiopea, he still sees her as less than him, and at this point, Casiopea accepts that. After all, she’d been raised to obey her male authority figures–her grandfather, her cousin, God.

But this soon changes, and the whole paradigm slowly shifts away from the god-mortal relationship Casiopea and Hun-Kamé have. 

A Gift of Silver

When Hun-Kamé and Casiopea go to a jeweler in search of a gift for Xtabay, Hun-Kamé buys Casiopea a silver charm bracelet. 

For Casiopea, she had “never owned anything of value or this pretty” and even though the bracelet wasn’t a substitution for her lost hair, it stands as a symbol of her friendship with Hun-Kamé. Because that’s how she comes to think of their relationship, even though she’s back and forth about having to aid him in his task. 

Chapter 13 is really a turning point for Casiopea and Hun-Kamé’s interactions. She had just given him her hair, and in return the god grants her a gift of silver. While it might not be an equal trade, the “smidgen of a smile” Hun-Kamé grants her is enough to let Casiopea know that things are changing. 

And of course, as the story goes on, we see that the shift in power becomes even greater. Casiopea saves Hun-Kamé from the seductress Xtabay, and for a brief time, Casiopea and her traveling companion seem to be equals. 

Lord of Xibalba Takes His First Nap

After Casiopea has a run in with her cousin, Martín, who tries to convince her that she’s being selfish, she and Hun-Kamé take a train out of Mexico City. 

The bone shard wedged in her hand makes Casiopea tired and fatigued, but the godly power that she’s channeled is also making Hun-Kamé weary. On the train, he sleeps for the first time, and dreams, too. 

And guess what? Hun-Kamé dreams about Casiopea. Though, at this point, I don’t think Hun-Kamé realizes what’s happening to him, that his brush with mortality has awakened a heart in him. He simply states, “I shouldn’t have dreamed, not about you or teeth or whatever men dream. I feel like I’m standing on quicksand and I’m sinking fast. I’m forgetting who I am.”

Obviously, Casiopea is surprised by this, and a bit embarrassed, but she also doesn’t quite understand the nature of Hun-Kamé’s godliness. His transformation, whatever the nature may be, has yet to show him compassion. Earlier, before mention of his dreams, Hun-Kamé and Casiopea argue about the right course of action with his brother, Vucub-Kamé. 

Hun-Kamé wants revenge, to cut off his brother’s head and lock him away as retribution. It’s hard to tell if this is his sense of justice, or a more mortal feeling of rage and vengeance. 

It’s worth keeping an eye on this dynamic, because it’s really quite an interesting one. 

To round out our SFF Read-Along for these chapters, we see Casiopea helping Hun-Kamé yet again with a donation of blood, and the strength to overcome the Uay Chivo, a sorcerer. As much as Hun-Kamé likes to come off as an all-powerful god, Casiopea is starting to see deeper into his nature, and seeing that he’s just as flawed as a mortal. 

Join us next Friday, July 8th, as we read the conclusion of Gods of Jade and Shadow.

SFF Read-Along: Gods of Jade and Shadow Chapters 1-11

Here at Signals from the Edge, we’re starting a new series called SFF Read-Along, where we’ll be reading (and rereading) some awesome science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels while providing some insight and summary. 

Each of these series will be numbered so you can keep track of where you’re at and not risk spoilers! 

For our first book, we’ll be reading Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book was first published in 2019 from Del Rey Books, and is a neat combination of Mayan and Axtec mythology with 1920s modernity. 

In this first part, we’ll be discussing chapters 1 through 11, with part two coming out Friday, July 1st, and the third part coming out Friday, July 8th. 

Definitely Not Cinderella

The story starts off in the house of Leyva in Uukumil, a small village in Mexico. Casiopea, our heroine, toils away under the cruel eyes of her grandfather and her cousin, Martín. 

When I read a few paragraphs into the first chapter, I assumed Casiopea would turn out to be a Cinderella-like character, rising above her family’s prejudices to be swept into royalty and intrigue. 

But, our narrator already thought of that: “Had Casiopea possessed her father’s pronounced romantic leanings, perhaps she might have seen herself as a Cinderella-like figure.” 

Instead of a fairy-tale rendition, we see a “pragmatic” and determined character, bogged down by the religious and societal ideals of her small town. She dreams of getting away from Uukumil, to the big cities where short hair, jazz, and automobiles are the hot fads. 

The first chapter does a lot to set up Casiopea as a character. We see her desires and troubles, and we recognize the significance of the stars. After all, she was named after a constellation, as the narrator reminds us. 

Enter the Lord of Xibalba

After a particularly frustrating fight with her cousin, Casiopea takes matters into her own hands, tired of her “pitiful existence”. Thinking that she can make off with a load of her grandfather’s gold, Casiopea’s world is instead turned on its head. She sneaks a look inside the chest at the foot of her grandfather’s bed, and discovers that it’s not filled with gold, but bones. 

blue hole
A blue hole in the Yucatán, where Casiopea’s grandfather liked to go.

Whose bones? Well, the bones of Hun-Kamé, a Lord of the Underworld. Upon opening the chest, Casiopea is struck with a shard of bone, which we learn ties her to the Xibalban. Her life-force powers the god as he regains a physical form (which just so happens to be a tall, handsome man). 

Even in the face of a god, an ethereal being, Casiopea manages to maintain relative composure. That, more than anything, is indicative of her character, which we see come to the forefront later on in the story. “She did not pause to question her sanity, to think she might be hallucinating. She accepted Hun- Kamé as real and solid.” Even with her pragmatism, Casiopea is open to believing in ghosts, demons, gods, and unexplainable beasts. 

I guess she had to, being tied to the god of the dead in such an intimate way. 

And thus begins Casiopea’s journey, her chance at escape from Uukumil and the society that sees her as nothing more than a maidservant. 

Across the Yucatán

Freeing Hun-Kamé from his prison sets in motion a grand adventure for Casiopea. They leave Uukumil in search of Hun-Kamé’s missing body parts–an eye, a finger, etc.–so that he can regain full power and overtake his traitorous brother in Xibalba. 

The multi-stop journey in search of Hun-Kamé’s power is a classic part of any mythology-related novel. From Percy Jackson to American Gods, the trend is to set off on a grand trek, meeting all sorts of deities and monsters along the way. 

For Casiopea, she’s introduced to the world of ghosts, demons, and sorcerers, and with each encounter her bravery grows. It’s a subtle change, and even though she’s often overcome by her feelings, she still helps Hun-Kamé, even if she claims it’s because of an obligation, we start to see it’s because of her compassion. 

Even when presented with an opportunity to rid herself of Hun-Kamé, she resolves that to do so would be distasteful, and as traitorous as her grandfather and Vucub-Kamé.

Her journey takes her to Mérida, Veracruz, and Mexico City, which is where chapter 12 begins. Check back on Friday, July 1st when we discuss the next leg of Casiopea’s adventure, chapters 12 through 23. 

In the meantime, check out some of our other blogs!