This book, which is inspired by the Popol Vuh, was written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the same writer who penned Mexican Gothic (see my review here) which I loved. The story starts out very strong. I get sucked into the main character’s, Casiopeia’s, viewpoint immediately. I loved this character. She felt like a sort of downtrodden, angry Cinderella living in a small town of early twentieth century Mexico.
Casiopeia is angry for rightful reasons. She wishes for a better life away from her abusive family, which is what compels her to run away after she opens a box containing a dark family secret. The story gets even better when the gods of the dead get thrown into the mix. The first scene where we are introduced to the current lord of the dead is darkly funny, even though the act of cutting up animals to read the future is objectively not something to be laughed at, but it works in the story because it gives us an insight to what Xibalba (the land of the dead) and its inhabitants are like, and it does so in a comic way.
The relationship between Casiopeia and another other god Hun-Kamé (who is an original character of the popol vuh) becomes the center of the entire story. Hun-Kamé is the rightful lord of the dead who has been displaced by his brother, Vucub-Kamé. There were some laugh-out-loud moments between Casiopeia and Hun-Kamé, like his reaction when she asked what should she call him, and there were also some truly endearing moments, especially towards the end when it was time to say goodbye.
I think that what I liked most about this story was how it ended. The story started out strong, and it ended up strong. It wasn’t a sentimental ending, which would’ve felt jarring, but instead it felt like a great wrap-up and a fitting, coherent ending to their relationship. If I had to pick my favorite thing about this book, it would actually not be a character but it would definitely be the setting of Xibalba (the land of the dead). The descriptions were so mythical and dark that it came alive to me immediately–seared into my imagination–giving me a glimpse to Mayan myth that would have otherwise passed me by, if it weren’t for this book.
The story does feel like it lagged in some places, especially in the middle, but when the characters enter Xibalba it picks up again and does a great job leading towards that terrific ending. After reading two great books of hers, I am definitely becoming a fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia and am super eager to see what else she has written. I recommend this book to fans of mayan myth of anyone interested in latinamerican or mexican folklore.