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Shadows on the Moon
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2012
YOU GUYS, do you know how long I have waited to read this book? Since Zoe Marriott first revealed the gorgeous UK cover for SHADOWS ON THE MOON, over a year ago. I simply can't resist a beautiful Asian face on a YA cover, and I have enjoyed Zoe's previous books. I am so, so happy to say that SHADOWS ON THE MOON was one of those rare books that I didn't want to end.

Her real name is Suzume (sparrow), but she is also Rin (cold) and Yue (moon). That's because Suzume's world ended the day her family was murdered. Living with her mother and her new stepfather, Lord Terayama, Suzume inadvertently practices her shadow-weaving: the art of creating illusions out of thin air. Her talent comes in handy as it becomes clearer to her that has life is in grave danger. As Suzume shuffles through her many identities, what happens when her one goal of avenging her father's death is slowly but surely replaced by another more tender?

There is something great to be said about every element of this book. According to the author's note, SHADOWS ON THE MOON is not set in feudal Japan, but rather a society similar to it. And Marriott has certainly done her research. Things such as the vocabulary for different kinds of clothing and the exact procedure for a tea ceremony may not add directly to the plot, but they certainly help immerse readers into Suzume's lush, simultaneously foreign yet familiar, world.

Suzume masterfully treads the thin line between her mask of feigned placidness and actually being a placid character. After all, at what point does the person you pretend to be actually become a part of you? However, Suzume's soothing narration helps ground what could be melodramatic events, so that they never go beyond the point of credibility. Her reactions to the events happening to her are natural and relatable. We sympathize with Suzume, and also hope that, if we are ever in a similar situation (which hopefully we won't be!), we can endure in a way as strongly as she does.

SHADOWS ON THE MOON is a big book, but it never feels too long. It is a fantasy of epic worth and length that will nevertheless fly by, appealing even to readers who don't often read fantasy. Suzume is a heroine for the modern-day reader, and Zoe Marriott's unique take on the Cinderella tale will have you soaring through its pages.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2012
Suzume's life in alternate world Japan was near perfect. She had a father who adored her. A cousin, Aimi, who was more like a sister. A home full of love, even if she was always kept under the watchful eye of her beautiful but stern mother.

But that was before. Before the men clad in shiny black armor stormed her home. Before she witnessed those same men accuse her father of treachery. Before she saw those brutal men murder both her father and her cousin.

But things change for Suzume. And her life is suddenly not so perfect.

Leaving behind the place she called home was hard. But living with the murderer of her father and beloved cousin is even harder. When Suzume finds out her step-father, Lord Terayama, was behind the murders she runs. With the help of her shadow-weaving abilities she leaves behind her world, her mother, and even herself.

From lowly beggar to sought after lady of the court Suzume reinvents herself time after time in the hopes of coming one step closer to her ultimate goal: to seek revenge on the house that brought her down.

Will Suzume succeed? Or will she die trying?

Shadows on the Moon written by author Zoe Marriott joins several other retellings of the classic fairy tale Cinderella. However, Marriott's retelling doesn't rely on simply putting her own spin on the tale, instead she write a new, bold, and beautiful tale of her own.

Using subtle key aspects of Cinderella, readers will quickly pick up quickly at what makes this a Cinderella story. For example main character Suzume was once the young lady of a wealthy household, but after a series of unfortunately events ends up being a drudge in the kitchen. Not only that but she also has her own fairy godmother, who even though isn't magical, but someone who makes all of Suzume's revenge dreams come true.

Marriott's writing is strong, and moves like water with a certain fluidity. She has crafted a story that reads like true life, but has a magical quality to it. Marriott's description are lush and vibrant. Readers will be able to see the foreign land in which Suzume lives, they will be able feel the emotions of every living being that graces the pages of Shadows on the Moon.

Not only is Shadows on the Moon well crafted, but it's a multi-layered story that tackles an array of subjects. From magic to ones social standing, this is one deeply messed up (in a good way) yet enthralling story.

Shadows on the Moon is chock-full of memorable characters. But of them all the most memorable one is main character Suzume. She's a strong heroine that persevered through the toughest of all situations. Even though she sometime relies on her magical capabilities, it's her inner strength that she really relies upon. Suzume isn't only a great character, but she's also a great role model to female readers - she's flawed but honest, she small yet fierce, she's full of magic yet startlingly real.

Even though Shadows on the Moon is long - four hundred and sixty-four pages long - it's a well paced story that will keep reader's attention. Reader's will fall in love with the allure of the story, with artistry of the writing, and with the realistic characters.

Chock-full of memorable characters, Marriott's characters are unlike any other characters to grace the pages of a book. Just like the storyline, there is something magical about Shadows on the Moon
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I love it when a book surprises me in such a positive way that, although I don't expect it, I fall in love and hate when the story ends. This was exactly what happened with "Shadows on the Moon."

The story is apparently a re-telling of the classic Cinderella story, set in an imagined interpretation of feudal Japan. I use the word "apparently," because I really had no clue, while I was reading it, that this was a re-telling until I saw another blogger mention it. The story is so unique and nontraditional, that the parallels of Marriott's tale and Cinderella are only there if you really dig for them. 'Shadows on the Moon" itself is completely stand-alone and has an ability to keep you guessing.

The story focuses on Suzume, a young girl with a very special talent called "shadow weaving." This talent enables her to "weave" illusions over herself - cloaks of night and darkness, serene facial expressions, and other physical perceptions. Her skill comes in handy the day men come to kill her father. Without knowing what is happening, Suzume uses her gift to escape a grim fate and ends up haunted with the knowledge that she survived when she shouldn't have.

Her new life becomes one big illusion, and her need for revenge becomes her one ultimate goal. It is out of this need that Suzume encounters twists and turns, all of which paint a thoroughly imagined and engrossing story. I'm not going to lie - there are points in the book that are dark, and the themes dealt within are controversial and more contemporary. Marriott writes these so well into a book that is historical in nature, without making them feel out of place.

Vivid, and engaging, the story is really one that transports you into a different world - a world of exotic strangers, kimono-clad ladies, and blooming cherry blossoms. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters alike and would strongly recommend this book to anyone - not just lovers of fairy tale re-tellings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2012
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

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.

The Review:

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.

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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2012
If you follow me on Youtube then you've likely seen my Top 10 Fave Fairytale Retellings vlog, and you'll already know this is going to be a super-positive happyfuntime review. I mean, this landed at number 6, so yeah, obviously I liked it lots. But now I get to tell you why, and as much as I am glad to do that, I just want to start by expressing how I wish I had read this book as part of a group. A book club, a lit class - doesn't really matter, but I think this book would make for such good discussion, and I wish I could have had that experience with it. (Which just means I need to get it on the agenda for my library book club, and then discuss their faces off.)

Alright, so why did I like it?
Well, I guess the biggest reason would be that Marriott didn't hold back. I feel like she put her all into this, like she poured everything she had into it, and it shows. There's heart and soul there, and thought and passion, and nothing makes people care about something more than seeing someone else's passion and love. It's contagious. What I really, really loved - what endeared Zoe to me (even more) and landed Shadows a spot on my top 10 - was that she didn't hold back anything. It's dark and unflinching and raw and powerful, but for all of the dark she put in there, she also put in light. For all the hurt and pain and obsession, there is also love and friendship and warmth. There's so much love here, love of all kinds, and it's all treated the same - as love. Marriott doesn't make a show of it, or treat it as anything more than a simple statement of fact: love is love is love. I just want to applaud that. The whole story is round and complete, which is always a huge win for me. (Dynamic writing! *jazz hands*)

And Suzume is the vehicle for all of this. She's relatable and understandable, even when she's in these really dark places. (Maybe especially when she's in these really dark places.) She's fixated, and sometimes it's so painful to watch, but at the same time, you're sort of fixated right along with her. Some authors will push a story along on a very thin premise and you wish the MCs would just get over it. Not so with Suzume. You never feel like she should just "get over" anything; conversely, some authors will have something really serious happening, and then a love interest comes in and poof! - everything's fixed. Again, not so Suzume. It feels as close to real as a book based on a fairytale with a main character who can weave shadows could possibly feel. Her pain and desire to disappear was palpable and it made for a good balance against her single-mindedness. It reminds you that it's not all justified righteous fury, that there is guilt (both incurred guilt and survivor's guilt) and shock and maybe a little PTSD all at work. Those are layers you don't always get in any story, let alone a fairy tale retelling.

And that's part of what makes it great. It never beats you over the head with the Cinderella story. It works and uses the key elements well, with an interesting take on the Stepmother/sister dynamics, and the transformative pauper-princess thing, but it's definitely its own story. The bones are there and the plot points are well done, but it's unique and strong enough on its own that it will work just as well for those who don't like fairy tales or don't even realize it is one. There's gray area all over the place (and you know I love my shades of gray (dammit, I can't use that phrase anymore)). Aside from one or two notable exceptions, every "hero" and every "villain" and every character in between has their shades of gray. They have their flaws and their strengths, their weaknesses and passions and motivations. It's what takes the Cinderella story and brings it to life, but it's also what sets it apart.

But of course I can't end the review without mentioning the world-building or the romance. Yes, of course there's a strong romance. There were times when Otieno was a little too magically good and upstanding for me (because I am a jaded bitch), but then, this is fantasy so at the same time I scoffed, I also secretly sighed. (Don't tell.) (But I mean, Otieno...have you seen the trailer? He's shirtless - and painted.) And of course the world building is spot-on. It wouldn't have made it into my top anything if that weren't the case. The shadow-weaving and Suzume's desire to fade into someone else - or into nothing at all - was very well done, and the backdrop of the Moonlit Lands was just enough - no info-dumping, no overkill, just an intriguing, vivid background to the story.

So, like I said. It's in my Top 10 for a reason.
(So PICK IT UP already!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Shadows on the Moon is a Asia-inspired fantasy retelling of Cinderella. In this version, the heroine goes to the ball not to win the prince's heart but to win the position of Shadow Bride, the highest ranking mistress. If she succeeds, she will be able to seek vengeance for the murder of her father and cousin.

Suzume is a young girl at the start of the story and it is clear that her father loves her but her mother is distant. When her father is falsely accused of treason and executed, Suzume and her mother (who wasn't there when the attack happened) flee to the safety of her father's best friend Lord Terayama. Soon after, her mother marries Terayama-san and it becomes clear to Suzume that all is not as it seems. Her mother is happy while Suzume only feels anger and pain. The only thing that gives her release from the overwhelming feelings is cutting herself. Suzume knows that she musn't let Terayama-san see her true self. She begins to hide her emotions and cutting scars using Shadow Weaving, a magical ability she didn't even know she had until after the attack. With the help of a servant and fellow Shadow Weaver, Suzume learns to disguise herself first as an obedient daughter, then as Rin, a mute and slow kitchen servant and later as Yue, the beautiful musician and dancer. But Suzume's plans for revenge are put into jeopardy when she meets Otieno, a foreigner and Shadow Weaver who can see through her disguise.

Suzume is not always likable, especially when she is so bent on revenge. She hurts not only herself but others who care about her. She is a determined girl though her narrow minded focus might cause her to lose the love of a good man. She feels that she doesn't deserve to be happy. It is all part of her growing process however and she must learn to deal with her grief, rage, and guilt. On Suzume's journey to healing, she meets three people who profoundly change her life. The first is Youta, the elderly Shadow Weaver who sees in Suzume the daughter he lost. It is Youta who saved Suzume's life the day her father was killed by hiding her in the ashes of the fireplace. Youta does his best to convince Suzume to live her life rather than seek revenge. Suzume later meets Akira while on the run. Akira is a Shadow Weaver too and a former Shadow Bride. It is Akira who teaches Suzume what she needs to become a Shadow Bride herself. She tries to encourage Suzume to let go of her scheme for vengeance and embrace love instead. Otieno is the young Shadow Weaver from a distant land who fell in love with Suzume and can see through all her disguises. He offers Suzume his heart but hers is so broken that she believes she is unworthy of his love.

Shadows on the Moon is a beautifully written novel that has been described by the publisher as "Cinderella meets Memoirs of a Geisha", a sentiment that I agree with especially for the last section of the book where I couldn't help but compare Suzume to Sayuri, the heroine of Memoirs of a Geisha. The world that Zoe Marriott creates is inspired by Feudal Japan. I enjoyed the descriptions of the kimono, tea gardens, the music, dancing and other details of Suzume's daily life. The descriptions of Shadow Weaving are also fascinating though not much insight is given into how Suzume and the other Shadow Weavers can do what they do. The author uses symbolism to great effect with the meaning of names and the way a name change corresponds with each phase of Suzume's life (Suzume means sparrow, Rin means cold, and Yue means moon).

I have found Zoe Marriott to be a talented writer of YA fantasy and she does not disappoint with Shadows on the Moon. She delivers a story of magic, adventure, beauty, and love. I enjoyed the romance between Suzume and Otieno though it was not the main focus of the story. What pulled me in the most was the emotional journey that Suzume takes over the course of the novel. The ending shows that Suzume has come to some important realizations about herself and her behavior. She still has some healing to do but she is well on her way. If there is one think that could have been improved it would be the ending. I felt that the last part of the book was rushed and the conclusion came a little abruptly. Still, I thought it was an amazing book. I would suggest this to fans of Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon and those who like fairy tale retellings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 25, 2012
Also appears on The Screaming Nitpicker.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2012
I really had no idea what to expect from this book when I got it - all I really knew was that it was a re-telling of Cinderella, but I'm so glad I did! The publisher's summary does not do the book justice.

Suzume has been through a lot in her lifetime - at fourteen, she witnessed the murder of her father and cousin at the hands of the royal guard, narrowly escaping with her own life. Her mother quickly remarries and her stepfather is willing to risk Suzume's life if it will gain him a profit. At every turn, it seems that something goes wrong in her life - until she meets Akira and Otieno.

I don't want to give anything away, but let me just say that Suzume is a beautiful young women with a strength of character that I truly admire. The paranormal/fantasy aspects of the story were also fascinating to me - I would love to have the ability to create such illusions.

The only thing I wish had been expanded on was the notion that Suzume was special with her gift and that it had manifested itself in ways that the world hadn't seen in generations. It was touched on, but never fully explored. If we had seen more of that story, the book would have felt complete to me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is my favorite genre: YA Historical Fantasy with an unusual setting- an alternate Asian world.

Mix that in with a totally original retelling of Cinderella and you have one great read.
Suzumi's story of hurt, guilt, suffering and ultimately redemption through love, is heart wrenching.
There is darkness in the story- she cuts and burns herself to feel pain which numbs her guilt.
Lovely romance and HEA
Highly recommended!
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on February 3, 2013
This book is simply beautiful. Every aspect of it is a dream, an impossibly lovely dream that I honestly never expected to encounter. I bought this book because of the Asian inspiration, but what I encountered was a wonderfully constructed darker retelling of Cinderella that portrays the struggles of a very human young girl discovering the world and also herself, across places, names, faces and identities. And I loved every minute of it.

The writing in Shadows on the Moon is absolutely breathtaking. It is elegant and full of some of the most gorgeous imagery. I loved how Marriott went about building the world. It is quite evident she strongly researched Japanese and Chinese culture and weaved them together into an exquisite world of beauty that easily transcended the page. I also loved that she decided to send Suzume to explore the different layers of this world, making it complex, engaging and, always, absolutely beautiful.

Speaking of Suzume, what an incredibly engaging heroine she is. There is an issue with self-cutting that I honestly felt a bit uncomfortable with, but I won't judge what I don't understand; what I will say is that it did help give a lot more dimension to her, which I respect, because Marriott is evidently unflinching and has no intention of prettifying things to please the sensibilities of some readers. Still, Suzume is painfully realistic, her sorrow so palpable, and the strength she developed was very inspiring. Suzume is a complex character, a heroine that built herself from the ground and one who battled a lot of darkness within her. Her relationships with those around her also added a lot of layers to her, but I cannot exactly say that the effect was mutual. Not many of the characters were as amazingly developed as Suzume, and though I loved him and what his relationship with Suzume entailed, the same goes for Otieno.

The romance in this novel is sweet and carefully constructed throughout the novel. I deeply enjoyed the whole idea of it, but I cannot say that there's was a palpable chemistry between the two. Still, the relationship had quite the effect when it comes to character and plot development, and it was quite hard not to feel for them. Also in concept, I deeply enjoyed the paranormal aspect of the novel with the shadow weavers. It was original and enchanting, even if not exactly used frequently throughout the novel.

The novel itself has a rather slow pace and there were some parts during the middle that dragged on a bit, but the plot is beautiful, incredibly strong, and so, so lovely, it was not hard to get lost in it, especially because this novel is so emotionally-heavy. The ending was fantastic and effectively brought together into a wonderful tapestry the many strands of emotion that Marriott expertly weaved into it.

This novel is not your tame, sweet fairy tale retelling. This is a story of loss, betrayal, sorrow and anger and the small bit of love and hope that can ultimately counterbalance it. Wonderful writing and world-building, a realistic protagonist and a magnificent plot make this novel a marvelous fairy tale retelling, a beautiful tribute to Asian cultures, and one gorgeous novel.
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