Title: Shadows on the Moon
Author: Zoe Marriott
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Format: Paperback, 464 Pages
ISBN-10: 1406318159 (Candlewick Press)
ISBN-13: 978-1406318159 (Candlewick Press)
Reviewed by: Macie
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.
Quick & Dirty: A beautiful tale about love, family, and revenge set in mythological Japan.
Opening Sentence: On my fourteenth birthday, when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us.
Suzume’s life completely changes after she witnesses the death of her father and cousin, and only narrowly escapes through magical means. The book is set in a fictional feudal Japan-esque country called the Moonlit Land. Marriott went into great detail about the culture and customs, which was fascinating to read. There is a type of shadow-weaving magic that allows those skilled at it to create glamours over themselves to change their appearance or even disappear altogether. Suzume learns that she has a skill for shadow-weaving, and uses it to her advantage.
Suzume and her mother are taken in by her father’s friend, Terayama-san. He soon proposes to her mother and the two are married. Suzume is going through a difficult time in her life, and no one seems to notice her pain. One thing I really liked about this novel is how real Suzume’s feelings felt, and the hidden pain of her depression. Her only confidante is the older cinder sweeper, Youta. He also becomes her teacher in the art of shadow-weaving. She uses her shadow-weaving to hide her real feelings from her family.
Suzume overhears that Terayama-san had set up her father’s murder, and decides to run away. She doesn’t get very far, and changes her identity to hide in her own house’s kitchen. Suzume believes it is her duty to avenge her father and cousin’s deaths. The book is separated into three sections based on what Suzume calls herself. After she leaves her parent’s home, she creates a new identity with the help of her new friend Akira. Her goal is to still get revenge on her step-father, but changes her tactics.
Throughout the book, Suzume has interactions with Otieno, a handsome stranger from a foreign land. Through her changes, he still finds her and shows his love for her. It was all very romantic, but it was a bit surprising because they don’t have many encounters before Suzume becomes Yue. One thing I did like about their relationship was how Suzume was not afraid of the foreigners like everyone around her, and always saw them, especially Otieno, as beautiful.
The underlying story is based on the tale of Cinderella, but Suzume is no helpless princess. Certain details are similar to the traditional story, but this is definitely not a retelling. I really loved how the story progresses, and how the characters are depicted. The writing style is formal, but it reflects the ceremonial traditions of Asian culture. The ending seemed a little rushed, but Suzume’s final decision is what I would have chosen. I would recommend this novel for anyone interested in fantasy, romance, and traditional Asian culture.
I could hardly wait to be alone that night, hardly wait for the dinner to be over, so Mother and Terayama-san would climb into their flower-hung palanquin and be borne off on their tout of Terayama-san’s lands. When the chattering guests finally departed, Mai accompanied me to my room. It was not thought proper for a maiden to be unattended at night, but while Terayama-san and Mother were off on their wedding trip, I had the power to ban Mai from my room, and I did, sharply.
That night one cut was not enough. I broke open the scabs of other cuts, old wounds that I had made over the past three months, and made new ones, slashing again and again with the curved silver blade I had stolen from Mother’s manicure tools. I felt no relief. I heard nothing but the shrill cries inside me.
The blade slipped from my fingers and rolled across the tatami mat, leaving a wet trail behind it. I stared, panting. My throat was dry and sore, and my lungs were tight, as if I had been screaming, but the only screaming had been inside, I was sure of that.
Head swimming, I reached for the blade. There was soft plopping noises as I extended my hand. Fat, dark drops spattered the mats. I stared for a long moment before I realized I was looking at blood. My blood.
FTC Advisory: Candlewick Press provided me with a copy of Shadows on the Moon. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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