Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon
by Zoe Marriott
Thanks to Candlewick Press for this e-copy to review
To be published April 24th, 2012

Upcoming Review"Love comes like storm clouds
Fleeing from the wind,
And casts Shadows on the moon"

A powerful tale of magic, love and revenge with a strong female lead set in fairy-tale Japan; this is "Cinderella" meets "Memoirs of a Geisha". Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to recreate 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 Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to capture the heart of a prince - and determined to use his power to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even love.

My Rating:  4 - Pretty Darn Good Book.

I am going to make my third (private) attempt at Reviewing Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, and this is irritating me because I really want to discuss this book!! It is just so new... new to the preview market & not yet published, so I need to contain my spoiler-filled inner-comments to something more elusive. The book was exciting and I hurried to finish it, so it deserves a 4 rating in my system. This prize is earned:
 "Shadows on the Moon" has already won the prestigious Sasakawa prize, an award gifted by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation for outstanding contributions to the promotion of understanding and cooperation between people of Japan and the UK.

The action starts right at the beginning and we dive right into the changing nature of this story. To describe any one scene is to give away a spoiler. The book summary did the only thing possible by hinting at the ever-changing progression.

So instead I will say.... this book is rich, dripping with detail from eastern culture before the modern age. The author says...
Most of the detials of this country are pure invention, and this book is not intended to represent a historically accurate picture of any Asian country at any period in history.
I don't know anything about Chinese or Japanese cultures. For me, it was a glorious trip and somewhat of a learning experience with very cultural terms, emotions, conclusions & reactions.  (I had flashbacks to English-dubbed movies, it was that authentic.)

More than the surroundings, which are amazing, Marriott created a character with Suzume that was deeper than average well-rounded characters. Suzume has emotional issues and we see why and we feel the inner struggle and pain as she works her way through to healing. The process is painful at times, but so well developed. I did not always agree with her decisions, but I knew why she made them.

The supporting cast is great, rich in character and costume. I understood why they helped Suzume, or didn't, as the case may be.

As for being a retelling of a fairy tale... I forgot which fairy tale was being retold.   Yes, the connections are there, but in a fun, "let's discuss which similarities we found" sort of way.

I have a problem that is a SPOILER.

Suzume finds tremendous release from her inner pain by cutting herself and nearly dies over blood loss before learning to make shallow cuts. WHAT?!  I have a problem with the concept. Maybe someone who already cuts themselves would see how to work through to real freedom in this book, but what if someone is struggling with deep emotional pain and reads this book, experiences the well-written emotional release, and gives it a try on their own arm?!  *shudder*  It was written well enough so that the relief was that great and there was no inner acceptance of it not being a good idea until almost the very end.

As for other spoiler thoughts... What is up with Youta?!  He started so well before dropping right out of the story - uncharacteristically, I thought. The romance was so well grown in Suzume's heart, but the wonderful Guy had moments of becoming someone vibrant - and he kept stopping just short of it.  There is kissing & beyond (although not explicit) & a near rape scene. There is also a cross-dresser with great character and open acceptance of same sex relationships through-out.

An amazing quote:

"My sock-clad feet made no sound on the tatami mats, but my long sleeves flapped with the movement of my arms, making a noise like the frantic beating of birds' wings."

Birds are a GREAT consistent theme thru-out the book - watch for the birds!