Review: Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott

Publication Date: April 24th, 2012
Candlewick Press
FORMAT: ARC, 447 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
A powerful tale of magic, love, and revenge set in fairy-tale Japan.
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.

A book I read in 
Shadows on the Moon 
A girl 
A bird 
Cloaked in darkness 
Borne out of hatred 
Borne out of love 
A whore 
in a princess gown
innocence gone.
The previous poem was my lame attempt at Haiku. I apologize.

Let me talk about the book.
Well, it’s as exquisite as the Japanese culture and as poignant as their art and their poetry. I’ve never been to Japan but Ms. Mariott took me there with this book. The best part is that it’s during a less populous era and technology hasn’t yet made a boom. It’s also of a time when prostitution was almost a delicate art form.
Her writing is beautiful and descriptive without saying too much. I especially loved the imagery of the falling cherry blossoms. She captured everything that was both beautiful and ugly about the women of Japan in those times; where the subservient learned to scheme for survival and where the parents themselves use their daughters to further social status by pimping them to the prince. I supposed that’s still a practice anywhere in the modern world in one way or another. 
You will not like Suzume right away.
You will not pity Rin for every burn, every cut, every clumsy fall she’ll take as a drudge.
You will, however, look at Pipit the way Otieno sees her (with reverence and wonder).
And you will be taken by Yue’s extraordinary beauty instantaneously.  The sum of these personalities will give you a deeper understanding as to why Suzume/Rin/Pipit/Yue did what she had to do.
VERDICT: Do not go into this book expecting the fairy tale of Cinderella. Otherwise, you will be sorely disappointed. The romance was sweet, magical and natural at the same time. You learn about a culture, so beautiful it will take your breath away and some repulsive that you’ll wonder how it was so accepted at the time. Over all, this book was an education – a journey to a place and a time rich with tradition, and a culture who held women at a contradicting pedestal (that of a high-priced whore worthy enough to be a known royal mistress), and you will learn about the mystical ability of shadow weaving. Shadows on the Moon took a beloved fairy tale and spun with some shocking realism – just enough to make the happily ever after even more worth it.