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.