‘Mexican Gothic’ Book Review

Noemí’s father, receives a troubling letter from her cousin, Catalina. The letters entails that the cousin is be poisoned by her new husband and that ghosts float around her new home. Something obviously is not right there and Noemí’s father sends her on her way to see what the matter with Catalina is.

Noemí is a city girl, having grown up in Mexico City. her family is that of new money from their dye and paint business. Noemí lives a life of fine parties and debutante balls. She does not seem like the likely superhero. She goes to the strict country home Catalina is living with her husband’s English family. There are rules of no smoking, no talking at the table, no leaving the house unattended. It is like a prison to Noemí. She is barely allowed to see her cousin and the only one she becomes close to in the family is the youngest son, Francis. He is the one to help her uncover all the secrets of the High Place house.

Starting with the first chapter, I liked Noemí. She is a strong and intelligent woman and not afraid to march to the beat of her own drum. However, throughout the story we come to find that there are not really any negative traits coming from her. She is a Mary Sue. The tension with Noemí and Virgil was so good at the start but just like her, he was only seen in black and white. These characters are one dimensional, either good or evil, no one is morally gray. I wish that Moreno-Garcia would have expanded their stories more so that we could connect with them.

The atmosphere was perfect and exactly is what the title of ‘Mexican Gothic’ describes. In the story, the characters even compare the house to that of the houses in Wuthering Heights and other Bronte novels. This really does read like a book out of the Victorian era even if it takes place in the fifties and was written in 2020. I love stories set at manors and this one did not disappoint with that setting.

The writing did not impress me. It was rather dry and at times I just felt myself skimming through the paragraphs, especially when I was convinced that this story would not be getting any better. Also, there were a few typos, like missing apostrophes and comas! As this is a horror, I expect to be creeped out or made uncomfortable but for that first 70% I was just like; “okay, kind of messed up but moving on”. I did not really feel anything for the writing until the last three chapters when the emotions were flying off the pages and into the reader’s mind.

The author truly took her time with this one. For the first seventy percent of this book, I just wanted something to happen instead of wandering around this manner and having the main character complain about all the rules and the members of the Doyle family. I do think taking time with your plot is a good thing but not when your characters are so flatly written so the reader does not have characters to analyze or a plot to enjoy! The element of horror that was present here was not to predict. I was able to find out the basis of it but not the little details. I wish that we would have had more building on this element and magic as we are just presented it with not a ton of background knowledge, I would like to know more. I was just bored, and I was scared that this would send me into a reading slump.

The characters were dry and flat, there was no development to them. Everyone was either good or evil, no one in the middle. Mexican gothic, that was exactly the atmosphere we were given, and it was perfect. It had the eerie feeling of a classic novel even if we were in Latin America. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, and it was the only thing I liked in this story. The writing was like the characters, flat and I found myself skimming a lot, which is never a good sign. The plot took a while to get into, most of the book. The pace did not pick up until the last three chapters of the whole novel. This is the second book that I have read from this author, and I will give her one more chance. This story did not impress me and if I did not have to write a review, I would have marked it as a DNF.

‘Gods of Jade and Shadow’ Book Review

In 1929, Mexico, Casiopea opens a forbidden chest that resides in her grandfather’s home. Inside there is a quest that needs to be had with the help of an ancient Mayan god that Casiopea thought was only a myth. She must help this immortal being reclaim his throne or die a slow and painful death.

Casiopea is like any other young adult fantasy lead heroine. This novel is actually listed as adult on Goodreads but in my opinion it falls more into the category of YA. I started out feeling indifferent on our characters. They were average and I never felt any real connection to any of them. Casiopea was a bit wishy washy, hypocritical, but I think most girls of her age and in any decade, can be like that.

The atmosphere was one of the strong suits of ‘Gods of Jade and Shadow’. I loved getting to travel all across Mexico, and a little bit of Texas, with the characters. It is a country that I know only the basics about so it was so cool getting to read about how each city varies with its culture, landscape, and overall personality. Silvia Moreno-Garcia did a great job with descriptive writing to really put you in a location rather it be our world or the underworld of the Mayan gods!

I briefly mentioned the writing in the paragraph above, the descriptions were pretty good in this book. I also like the paragraphs about Casiopea’s dreams and looking up to the stars as if they would have an answers to all of her questions about life, those paragraphs felt so hopeful and dream like.

The plot is very unique with it being Mayan gods, as we get so many books about Egyptian, Greek, and Roman gods, we also seem to be getting quite a few about Slavic mythology. I find all mythology interesting though, so I am not complaining, but seeing something set in North America is very refreshing. I think if you are a fan of Naomi Novik, you will like this novel, it has some of the similar tropes. I have seen this book labeled as a Cinderella retelling but I would take that very lightly. The plot was something new and nice to see in the fantasy market.

This plot did move along nicely as it was quite fast paced. I think the characters always being on the move in their quest was a part of making it move fast.

An average read, this was new and unique but I could not connect with the characters and found myself skimming through the paragraphs. My min wandered a lot while getting through this 334 page novel. It is more of a plot driven story than one of character development. My opinion is unpopular as many of those I follow on social media really seemed to enjoy, ‘Gods of Jade and Shadow’. I would suggest still picking this book up if you are interested in the fantasy genre or into mythology.

3 out of 5 stars.

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