My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The publisher category for this book is fairy tale, but it's so much more than that. It's a historical novel, taking place in the 1920s, when Frida Kahlo would have been the same age as our heroine. It's an homage to Mexican literature: a book written in English that has the cadences of translated Spanish; it's a portal into myth—in fact, it's a portal story, where our heroine Casiopea Tun is drawn into the quest of a god, the Lord of Death. You might also describe it as Coco for grownups; it's a journey into Mexica cosmology. Casiopea starts out as a Cinderella character and then she frees the Lord of Death from prison and goes on the hero's journey to help him reclaim his throne.
The book succeeds on all those levels: a romance with a touch of the picaresque, a tragicomedy, a mythic journey. Casiopea faces demons and desires and learns the truth of herself. The story moves quickly, and it moves your heart. I loved it.
Moreno-Garcia has made an exquisite jewel of a book; most people are going to appreciate it on the Coco level, and that's fine—what a gift all the other levels are, to those already familiar with mestizo culture.
In these days of making old things new again, the stories of our ancestors become refleshed in modern attire; the art of the storyteller is to birth new meaning from the same old stories, for the core lessons of the human story remain the same, like human nature. The storyteller leaves us having introduced change into the divine realms and leaves us with the unchanged ancient wisdom: life on earth is a gift to be savored and cherished, for it is sweet and good. Nevertheless, this goodness is borne from suffering, blood, and sacrifice; a true person makes her choices knowing that one day she may be the one who bleeds, the one who sacrifices. The birth will still be worth it.
**(I received a digital advance copy from Netgalley and Del Rey for review; it was worth the migraine, and I'll be purchasing the book to reread. Huge fan!)
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