Bingo Square: Green (or Jade as a variation thereof)
The e-book version of this was on sale back in January, and given my love of mythology, it seemed like the perfect time to try a new author and learn more about mythical figures outside the Greek and Roman pantheon. Still, the book sat quite a while before I finally picked it up.
I quite enjoyed this novel – the writing style at first felt very matter of fact, in line with our no nonsense heroine, Casiopeia. Her mother married for love, but her family didn’t support her choice. When Casiopeia’s father died young, she and her mother returned to her grandfather’s home, but as the poor relations. Casiopeia is basically treated as a servant – for the most part, she shuts her mouth, but every once in a while, her temper gets the best of her when her cousin Martin, the heir to family fortune, goads her. After their most recent clash, Casiopeia decides she is done with it all, especially since Martin tells her that their grandfather Cirilo doesn’t actually have her in his will.
While the family is gone for an outing, Casiopeia searches her grandfather’s room for valuables to take when she leaves for the city, and finds something very different in his locked trunk: Hun-Kame, the Supreme Lord of Xibalba, the ruling death god. A few decades before, Casiopeia’s grandfather had entered into a deal and helped Hun-Kame’s twin brother Vucub-Kame betray and imprison him. In order to regain his throne and his power, Hun-Kame requires Casiopeia’s assistance to travel through Mexico with him and collect the parts of him that have been removed (such as an eye, an ear and a finger). Casiopeia questions what her motivation might be here – after all entering into deals with immortal beings is never a good plan. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any choice they are connected until he regains his full power, and he is actually pulling from her life force to sustain himself. They have to pair up to prevent her death and restore him. From here, they go on a quest that takes them through Mexico and involves many other supernatural beings.
While this novel could have easily set the opposing gods up as good and evil, their relationship is much more complicated – Vucub-Kame took an extreme approach and yet as the novel progresses, one sees where Hun-Kame certainly didn’t help their relationship. The novel also explores immortality and humanity. Moreno-Garcia makes it clear that there is a large difference between gods and humans – Hun-Kame’s link to Casiopeia makes him experience humanity and emotions but they are very much from different realms. It has a very different feel from the god and human entanglements of Greek mythology where the gods and their passions are constantly inserting themselves.
I highly recommend this one – in many ways it’s quieter and more nuanced than some other stories that fall into the folktale or mythology genre, but that’s what made it stand out so much and worth the read – plus, it is always fun to learn about different perspectives and cultures. It doesn’t settle for easy ideas of good and evil, even if some of the characters are definitely following the wrong influences, and instead demonstrates how relationships can change over time, and how it is important to break away from expectations to forge one’s own path. Casiopeia is very angry in the beginning of the book, and easily could have become bitter, but the novel shows her that she has choices as do the other characters who have been content to play the role assigned to them.
I already have Mexican Gothic waiting, and I definitely won’t that let one sit unread as long as this one.