Author: Zoe Marriott
Genre: YA, historical fiction, paranormal
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Summary: 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.
☆: 2/5 stars – wonderful premise but failed to deliver.
Review: This one sadly just didn’t work for me, and didn’t quite hold my attention. I wish I could say otherwise as the blurb sounded really awesome, and the idea of a retelling of Cinderella combined with shadow weaving really intrigued me. While the premise was wonderful, “Shadows on the Moon” ultimately failed to deliver for me.
I was a good chunk into the book and I still wasn’t feeling the hook landing where it should have been. Ideally, a hook should land into the reader within the first chapter, if not the first sentence of a book. But almost 100 pages in, I just wasn’t feeling it. That was really dismaying as the writing was decent, but the story just didn’t really move along at a good pace.
The worldbuilding was okay. I wanted to know about where we were in Japanese history, fairy retelling or not. An estimation would have been fine. Then the constant use of Japanese when the English translation was given within the next sentence…well, not only did I find that highly annoying, but I couldn’t quite find the point of the author doing so. As a translator, I understand that some ideas don’t quite translate over, but I didn’t find any in Japanese that the author used that couldn’t very easily be translated into English. Had it been the case of using a Japanese term or idea that really has no straight, easy English translation, it would have been different and I would have understood. But it just felt like the author was flinging around language for the sake of doing so, and not for any other real purpose. For those who don’t speak the language, I can see where that might get not only confusing, but frustrating.
The characters felt flat – I should have been feeling Suzume more than I did, especially since she’s the MC, but I just didn’t. She didn’t quite feel entirely real, and I think that might have to do with the worldbuilding since characters feed back into their world. Without the world fleshed out enough, the characters can be heavily affected – which is what I saw happening here.
While Marriott has a great touch with sensory language and imagery, I felt that there were chunks that were more telling than showing, but I will give it to her – when she wants to, she can really give some visceral imagery (Suzume hiding in the ashes? I loved that part) that will stick with you. I’m not entirely closed to reading other works of hers, but this one just didn’t work out for me.
“Shadows on the Moon” is out now from Candlewick Press, so be sure to check it out and see how things work out for you. Hopefully you’ll have better luck than I did.