Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Title: Shadows on the Moon
Author: Zoe Marriott
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd (paperback)/Candlewick Press (hardocover)
Release Date: July 7, 2011 (paperback)/April 25, 2012 (hardcover)
Pages: 464 pages (paperback/hardcover)
How I Got the Book: provided by the publisher Candlewick Press through NetGalley

Shadows On The Moon   Shadows On The Moon

A powerful tale of magic, love, and revenge set in fairy-tale Japan.

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to re-create herself in any form - a fabulous gift for a girl desperate to escape her past. But who is she really? Is she a girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother's new husband, Lord Terayama? Or a lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama's kitchens? Or is she Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge plot to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even the one true aspect of her life- her love for a fellow shadow-weaver.


At just fourteen years old, Suzume witnessed the slaughter of her father and cousin by the hands of soldiers and was saved only because of the shadow-weaving man that hid her and later taught her how to use her own shadow-weaving power. Upon discovering the conspiracy around her family's deaths and how it involves her mother and stepfather, Suzume flees and adopts a life of deceptions. Her ultimate goal: become the Shadow Bride of the young Moon Prince and use that power to avenge her family. All that stands in the way is her heart--specifically, her love for another man.

Seeing the deaths of two family members and then being betrayed and abandoned by the only person she has left has taken its toll on Suzume. She's an angry girl on a self-destructive path for vengeance who still feels the pain of her loss every single day. Her complexities are spot-on and her all-consuming grief feels real no matter how deeply in fantasy her story is entrenched. Shadows on the Moon evoked genuine emotional reactions and mental reactions from me. Poor Suzume! I thought at points. How could her mother treat her like that? Run, Suzume, run! No wait, stop running and face it! (I have a rich inner life, especially while reading.)

The book is set in the fictional Moonlit Land, but the incredible amount of research on Japanese and Chinese culture, clothing, and values that went into the novel did not go unnoticed. The hours and hours of research that went into it are difficult to imagine, but it was not for nothing. It warms my heart to see such effort put into a novel.

The way shadow-weavers could find one another when they need reeked a little too strongly of deus ex machina, just a good excuse for someone to come along and help/save Suzume when she needed it. Her love for Otieno is incredibly important to the story because of how it affects Suzume and makes her question her goals. As such, it is vital to make the love between them believable, but I could not feel the connection or understand what she saw in him. I largely enjoyed the story, but these small flaws in this jewel of a novel were too conspicuous to ignore.

Fairy tale retellings are popular enough on their own, but Cinderella retellings in particular seem to be a dime a dozen. Shadows on the Moon, a darker Asian-inspired twist on the tale, stands out among the competition and likely touches more deeply on the grief of losing one's family and being betrayed by the only person left, the one who should be taking care of you and instead mistreats you. Fans of the recent release Cinder by Marissa Meyer will likely enjoy this novel too.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell