I loved this book! I flew through it in one sitting - which took me into the early hours of the morning- but it was completely worth the lack of sleep! A fresh spin on the old Cinderella fairytale, Shadows on the Moon is set in a fantastical version of feudal Japan. Weaving together magic, romance and spellbinding intrigue, it is a story that will stay with you for years to come.
The story begins with a young Suzume. Playing with her cousin in her family's orchard, she is unprepared for the sudden attack on her home. When military officers raid, killing both her father and cousin, it unleashes a power inside her that Suzume never knew she had. A power that on that day, allows her to remain hidden and allude the death fated for her.
With the aid of Youta, a family servant, she escapes the devastation and with his tutoring, learns to control her gifts as a Shadow Weaver. Born with the ability to create illusions around herself, Suzume can appear as anything she wishes... or anyone. But when her mother remarries, Suzume stumbles across a deadly secret and is forced to use her gifts to flee her home, yet her new step-father, the Lord Terayama, remains in close pursuit.
Changing from a lady of wealth to a scullery maid, then into the most sought after courtesan of the Moonlit lands, Suzumes heart grows black, consumed only by two goals. Survival, and revenge. But then she meets Otieno, and for the first time in years, she finds her plans faltering as he teaches her what it is to love once again.
Yet Suzume has worked too hard to let Otieno ruin her vengeance now. Prepared to sacrifice both her love and freedom, Suzume will do anything to attend the Shadow Ball. She will bring Terayama to justice once and for all... even if it kills her...
This book is truly amazing. The setting, the characters, each had such life and depth that they felt almost tangible. It was a sad moment when I turned the last page and the story ended. Loosely based on Cinderella, Zoe Marriott puts her own twist on the old, much loved fairytale. While similarities from the original were clear to see, this book remains uniquely its own story, especially with Suzume being a stronger, and much more complex character than poor Cinders could ever hope to be.
Otieno is also a very interesting character. With his tattoos and dark skin, Suzume can't help but be drawn in by his differences. Yet their relationship is based on more than just physical attraction. Otieno has such an innate goodness to him that I felt he helped balance out the darker elements of Suzumes character, and as fate throws the two them together again and again, it became a pleasure to watch their emotional connection grow.
The book also covers some more sensitive issues such as depression and self-harm. These are issues that I don't think are addressed enough in YA books and I liked how Zoe Marriott drew subtle attention to them without turning the story into something overbearingly dark nor annoyingly preachy. It really made me admire her skills as a writer.
So overall Shadows on the Moon was an amazing read. Beautifully written and with a diverse array of characters, this is a book I would recommend to any lovers of fantasy and fairytale retellings. Mystical, emotional and truly captivating, this is without doubt a five star read!
Suzume witnesses the soldiers murder her father and cousin Aimi on the day of her 14th birthday. She goes and hides in the kitchens at the back of her father's estate, under the ashes of a hot fire. With the help of an old man named Youta, the soldiers do not find her and they leave. When her mother returns with a family friend they willingly go to live with him but soon he asks Suzume's mother to marry him and when she agrees, Suzume knows that there is little place for her in their lives.
From the wise words of Youta Suzume realises that she is a shadow-weaver and that is how she hid from the soldiers. She can cast shadows upon her body to make her look any way she pleases, or hid from someone completely. But, forced to run away, Suzume finds a companion in Akira, who will help her hone her talents and maybe find more.
You really have to read this book. Theres no which way about it! Its beautiful and amazing and you seriously MUST read it. Now... go on! Don't even bother to read my review!
Ok so if you have decided to stay and read it (thanks) I'll try to stop gushing. Shadows on the Moon is beautiful as I said. I know from reading Zoe's second book, Daughter of the Flames, that her writing is amazing and the way she puts words together is like a shadow weaving in itself! If nothing else draws you into this book it'll be the writing, I want to crawl into this world and live there purely because the writing is so rich and beautiful... Ok I'm started to gush again!
The story is VERY loosely based on Cinderella. There's not a huge amout that's the same to be honest. Suzume flees from her house and becomes a drudge (kitchen servant) but I love the retake on it. There are sutble differences and of course there is the huge one in the whole shadow weaving thing that I loved so much!
The story is definitely one that makes you need to know what happens next. The pace is fantastic and the mysteries that develop really have you guessing what'a about to happen. I did find myself guessing one or two things correctly but it wasn't even to say the story was predictable... more like Zoe did well in leaving clues about what was to happen. Also I love working stuff out so I let my brain think of every possibility ever! I also loved that the story touched upon some major issues such as grief, abandonment and self-harm, especially that last one, it is unusual to find a topic like that in a fantasy novel so I was surprised, but it is done so well.
The characters in this were amazing. You really get to know Suzume, and you learn to love her. There were parts in the book where I just wanted to grab her and cuddle her, or shake her to try and get her to make sense of what she was thinking of! I felt for her the same way as I would feel for my sister, the character was that real to me! Also Akira, she was brilliantly potrayed too, I loved her from the second we met her because I could tell there was something about her!
Obviously there is a love story running through the story of Shadows and this wouldn't be a good review if I left out the amazing Otieno. He was mysterious and gorgeous and from the very first time we see him on the boat I couldn't help but want to know more. I was so intrigued! I love that we did get to know him a bit more and that although there was something there between Suzume and Otieno I don't think I'd quite describe it as insta-love, which we are seeing a lot of in YA at the minute, so I was happy that we saw their relationship grow from nothing.
It has been a while since I read Daughter of the Flame and I had forgotten how amazing Zoe's style and writing bowls you over. I had forgotten how amazing it actually was, and I must not do that again because honestly, these are not my type of books, they aren't the ones I look at and just think "I'm going to love that" because of the genre, I always shy away from historical fantasy fiction and I'm so glad that I made myself read Daughters because with that and Shadows I swear I have found a new favourite author. Everyone should read Zoe Marriott's stuff. And I mean it, now, GO!
Sixteen year old Suzume's life is just about to turn upside down. Witness to her father and cousin's brutal execution she is forced into hiding with her Mother, aided by her Father's best friend, Terayama. But before long it becomes clear Terayama has an ulterior motive and within weeks has married Suzume's Mother. Her new step father's plans don't include her though and she's pushed aside. In deep despair Suzume finds relief in hurting herself. When she discovers a shocking secret and is forced to flee her step father's home it appears there's nothing left for Suzume.
But she has an as yet undiscovered power. Suzume is skilled in the magical art of Shadow Weaving and can recreate herself in any form. Taking on different identities to survive, from a lowly drudge (kitchen servent) to beautiful courtesan Suzume is still unable to move on from her past and has revenge on her mind. A revenge so strong she is willing to forgo everything in it's name, even love.
Why, Why Why haven't I read any of Zoë Marriott's previous books? This is something I intend to put right as soon as possible, because I absolutely adored her writing style in Shadows On The Moon. Described as 'Cinderella meets Memoirs Of A Geisha' and with a stunningly pretty cover, I was hoping for something magical from this book, and I definitely feel I got it. Set in a fantasy world reminiscent of Feudal Japan, the book sizzles with magic and romance.
The given comparisons in the blurb are pretty huge ones, but they are absolutely valid here. I love how Zoë Marriott took the story of Cinderella and completely turned it on its head. Suzume is no meek girl waiting for her prince to come along and rescue her. There are layers upon layers to her character, shown through several identities. Everything you'd expect from a fairytale is here: Wicked step parent, badly treated heroine, handsome princes, a ball and even a fairy godmother of sorts, though they all have their very own spins from the norm. But surprisingly there's so much more to this book than I ever expected. Amongst the fairytale there's a story of loss, identity, self-hatred and vengeance, which makes this book utterly compelling and ensures Suzame's story is unforgettable.
The fantastically created world is so beautiful and evocative you can almost hear the rustle of Kimono's and smell the cherry blossom. It's rich in detail, with sumptuous descriptions of clothing and surroundings bringing them vividly to life. One particular dancing scene towards the end is described with such detail and passion I could imagine it happening and the intensity of it made me emotional. I think this may be one of my favourite scenes ever in a book...it's breathtaking!
Then there's the romance. Ohhh how gorgeous this is, real old fashioned fairytale romance; dark, tortured, dangerous and passionate. It swept me off my feet. The magic I hoped for was there in abundance as we're introduced to the mystical world of the shadow weavers. All these elements blend together seamlessly to create an epic tale, which completely blew me away. Yet amongst all the magic and romance Marriott raises the serious and relevant subject of self harm. Written with empathy and understanding I felt Marriott captured Suzama's feelings perfectly and realistically, and through these sections she sheds light on a difficult to understand topic. This really is a book with many hidden depths.
So as you can probably tell, I LOVED this book. From the very beginning Suzame's story and Zoë Marriott's world captivated me. I was completely lost inside this world; it wrapped itself around me as if the shadow weavers themselves had cast a spell. I know this book is one that has left a lasting impression and I'll think of for a long time to come.
Published by Walker July 2011
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.