Sunday, 9 December 2012

YA Book Review: 'Shadows on the Moon' by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon
by Zoe Marriott

Published: 7th July, 2011
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Source: Bought From Amazon
Format: E-Book
Pages: 464

Cover Art

This cover is a pretty perfect representation of the novel inside. I especially love the purple and the blossoms and even the photograph of the girl doesn't bother me too much.

Plot Synopsis

On my fourteenth birthday when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us. We saw them come, Aimi and me. We were excited, because we did not know how to be frightened. We had never seen soldiers before.

Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself. 

Suzume died officially the day the Prince's men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity.

Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? 

Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama. 

And nothing will stop her. Not even love.

My Rating:

First Lines:

'On my fourteenth birthday, when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us. We saw them come, Aimi and me. We were excited, because we did not know how to be frightened. We had never seen soldiers before.'

Pocket-Size Review

I cried on the bus due to the heartbreaking cuteness of this book. It is one of them.

Highs: ADORABLE GOODNESS. Love, villains, all worked together seamlessly.
Lows: I felt the magical aspect wasn't really tied up properly but maybe it was implied.


Love comes like storm clouds

Fleeing from the wind, and casts
Shadows on the moon

Cinder? CINDER WHO? Shadows on the Moon is the Cinderella re-telling that I want to gush about. Forget the android: Suzume/Rin/Yue is my perfect Cinderella.

What I loved most about this book was the main character and how complex she was; I wasn't expecting so much depth in a character cast in the Cinderella role. I love how each section of the book began with her name change. There are three sections to represent the her three different, and unique, identities; in the first section she is Suzume, in the second she is Rin and in the third she is Yue. Suzume is innocent and carefree, Rin is weary and watchful and Yue is cold and expressionless. She wears each identity like a mask and fully becomes another person, which is utterly heartbreaking and intriguing to watch.  

I loved the relationships that Suzume/Rin/Yue had with other characters in the novel, especially her step-sister Aimi who she describes as, 'so lovely that next to her I felt like a squashy brown toadstool.' It's nice to see some step-sister love in a Cinderella story for once! She obviously adores and idolises Aimi, and this becomes apparent later in the book where she uses Aimi's sweetness as a mask she can use to cover her own pain,  'She turned her head suddenly to look at me, and smiled, an awkward smile of stiff lips and rapidly blinking eyes. I smiled back. My smile was much more natural. It was the one I had stolen from Aimi.' 

Although Suzume/Rin/Yue's shame and guilt grow and fester throughout the novel, she isn't weepy or self-indulgent; just angry and helpless and vengeful, 'It is strange how grief turns happy memories to knives that pierce you.' These knives are not just mental; they become physical too and self mutilation becomes another release for her feelings of self hatred and blame. I have seen other reviewers refer to Suzume/Rin/Yue's behaviour as 'emo' but I think that is actually propagating the isolation and disgust directed towards people who harm themselves, which I don't agree with. I thought the subject was handled perfectly and was an interesting, if extremely sad, aspect of her character.

I found the writing beautiful and lyrical and really suited a book which includes magic and shadow weaving. I especially loved the description of Suzume's first weave; 'The ashes seemed to sigh, moving, surging up and swirling into a thick, furry blanket. Their darkness settled over me, concealing the whiteness of my skin. They stoked me soothingly, as if to say: It is all right. Do not fear.' I felt real emotion while reading, which I contribute wholly to excellent writing. The love story particularly had me. It was very adorable and one of those ones that puts a lump firmly in your throat and has you shouting, WHY CAN'T THEY JUST BE TOGETHER!!?? Suzume/Rin/Yue tries to stop herself from falling in love because she feels she is a bad person and doesn't deserve happiness, and those ones always get me! Sob.

Suzume/Rin/Yue's transformation from naive and carefree and bold to hesitant and hard and tough was both heartbreaking to read and fascinating as she managed to bury her pain more completely whilst also letting it become more intense. Where once she was honest to a fault, now she doesn't even know who she is anymore, 'How much easier life was once you learned how to lie. I had got into trouble by speaking out of turn, arguing and answering back so many times. Not any more. Now I would do what I wanted, and no one would stop me.'

The relationships in this book are so much more complicated than you would find in your standard YA. I am sick of reading about the bond between mothers and/or fathers and their children and how parents will throw themselves to their deaths for their children. This is not always the case in real life. Mothers can abandon their children and expose them to great neglect, or mental and physical torture. We are never sure whether to trust Suzume/Rin/Yue's mother and her stepfather is plain sinister and manipulative; the perfect villain. He demands her mother's full attention and she seems to both adore and fear him, 'If she looked away from him for too long he would notice. He always noticed when she was looking at someone other than him.' It is a consuming, possessive love and feels dangerous and unpredictable, which I absolutely LOVED. 

Overall, I can hardly say a bad word about this book. I loved the writing, the characters and the complexity of the relationships between the characters. Also, if you want to read a book about weaving read this one with its elements of shadow weaving rather than the time weaving in Crewel by Gennifer Albin; this was so much better!

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: I'm really excited to read more by this author! Swan Kingdom is ready and waiting on my Kindle.

Memorable Quotes: 

'The ice shattered. My shadow-weaving shredded away like mist under a summer wind and I was exposed, weak and trembling and pitiful as I was. I could not speak. All I could do was look at him.'

'How much easier life was once you learned how to lie. I had got into trouble by speaking out of turn, arguing and answering back so many times. Not any more. Now I would do what I wanted, and no one would stop me.'

Three Words to Describe this Book: Gorgeous, Vengeful, Heartbreaking.

But Don't Take My Word For It...

  • Blog Reviews of  'Shadows on the Moon': 

'Retellings are fairly common, and Cinderella is often a popular choice. Despite this, I thought Shadows on the Moon brought something new to the table. The choice of setting, the diverse cast of characters, and the heroine’s personal trauma and determination to seek revenge no matter the cost made this a worthwhile read for me. B.'

'All things considered, I loved reading Shadows on the Moon. It is a cool retelling of Cinderella, with a great protagonist – Suzume and the choices she made, right or wrong, were what made this book such a great ride.'


  1. Hi Anna,
    I absolutely adore your blog! This review is brilliant! I was actually thinking of reading this and now your review just locked it in!!! I had a look at your "ABOUT" page and just to let you know I LOVE HARRY POTTER AS WELL :)
    I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for more of your reviews :) Hope you can do the same-

  2. I did enjoy Cinder, but I'm always in the mood for more fairy-tale retellings. You'd think that Cinderella, being one of the most well-known fairy tales ever, would run out of wonderful retelling possibilities, but that doesn't appear to be the case yet. I like the idea of a protagonist who changes identities . Also, weaving shadows sounds awesome! I own this book, so I should really try to read it soon.

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