Thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
I reaaaaaally loved this one. Mayan Mythology, the Jazz Age and a plucky heroine? Yes please. I’m slightly miffed I’ve never come across this author before though. I assumed this was a debut but I went to look at her Goodreads author page and she’s written loads! Publishers, can we have more money pumped into promoting authors like this please?
Casiopea (is this the Spanish translation of Cassiopeia? Her name was the only thing that irked me about the book as I kept pronouncing it as Casio-Pea, like the calculator and the beloved green vegetable) is a young woman living in a dead end town in Southern Mexico. She lives her life as a Cinderella type figure, doing chores for her generally awful family. An encounter with a forbidden chest belonging to her grandfather leads to her escape from her mundane existence and leads her on a journey from the Yucatan peninsula across Mexico to Baja California.
The setting of this book is really cool and unique. My knowledge of 1920s Mexico is precisely nada but the author weaves in real historical and culture events into the more fantastical elements of the story. The changing times of the Jazz Age, the emergence of the Art Deco movement, freedoms for women (and the accompanying misogyny…) and economic regeneration illustrate a culture in transition and the conflicts between the old world and the new. The story takes us from the lushness of the Yucatan peninsula with its jungle and cenotes through to prohibition era California.
Mayan gods and beliefs also play a huge part in this story and the evocative and lyrical descriptions of these gods and their abodes really brought them to life. I liked how it wasnt simply ‘this god is bad and this one is good’ as can so often be found in other similar stories. The dichotomy between the old gods and the new reminded me a little of some of the themes in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and the question of what keeps gods alive? I’m being deliberately vague about who the actual gods are because I had so much fun discovering them and you should too.
I also got a bit of a Dante’s Inferno/Odysseus vibe from it at some points (yeah, you’re interested now!) which was a nice nod to the central themes around myth and Casiopea’s love of mythology.
The romance is a mega slow burn which I really enjoyed. It felt really grown up and the motivations and decisions made by the central characters felt very credible and mature. There’s humour, love, forgiveness but also bittersweetness and not gonna lie, I was blubbing like a baby at the end.
“Dreams are for mortals.”
“Because they must die.”
Suffice to say I loved this one. I’m off to the Goldsboro website to buy their limited edition so I can enjoy this one again.