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.