Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shadows on the Moon

Shadows On The MoonShadows On The Moon by Zoë Marriott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Shadows on the Moon is a remarkably well told, fascinating story about Suzume, a young girl who’s lost her home and her entire family when the soldiers came to her house to accuse her father of treason. Aside from Suzume, who miraculously survived by making herself invisible to the soldiers, the only member of the family left alive was her mother, and only because she was absent when the soldiers came. Left with nothing at all and in constant fear for their lives, Suzume and her mother had no choice but to assume new identities and go to live with Teryama-san, her father’s closest friend.


It soon becomes clear that Teryama-san has his own agenda and that he is not nearly as kindhearted as he initially seemed to be. He is determined to marry Suzume’s mother and keep her all to himself, at least until he grows tired of her and turns his attentions to Suzume. The only person Suzume can turn to is Youta, an old servant that followed her all the way from her father’s house and showed her nothing but kindness from when she first saw him. Youta tells her that she is Kage Oribito, a favorite of the Moon, and that she has the gift of concealment that manifested itself when her life was in danger. As Suzume starts learning to use her powers, her enemies become more and more clear, and she gets obsessed with seeking revenge.


Aside from Suzume, who was well developed and had strengths and weaknesses (the first person narrative helped with that), others were typical fairy tale characters. We had a dead parent who was nothing but gentle and loving; a wicked stepfather (although the mother was just as wicked); a prince without a single flaw; not one, but two fairy godmothers… I must admit that I liked being able to relax into these patterns. The story wasn’t that predictable, but the characters’ behavior was, and I found that oddly comforting.


I was a little disappointed at first because the beginning seemed more middle grade than young adult, but pretty soon it became clear that I couldn’t have been more wrong. For example, the implied sexual relationship between Suzume’s mother and Teryama-san, while her father was still alive, is not something you normally read in middle grade books. As the story progressed and Suzume faced one disaster after another, as her choices became increasingly hard, the tone of the book also changed and in some ways, the book grew up and hardened together with Suzume. At the beginning, she seemed much, much younger that she was supposed to be and often far too naïve for a 16-year-old girl, but nobody could call her naïve by the time she got her revenge.


Although Shadows on the Moon is set in Moonlit Land, which makes it a fantasy novel, the influence of Asian cultures, Japanese in particular, is so strong that I often forgot that it is not set in feudal Japan. I think I’d have preferred it that way, actually – just a touch of paranormal in a very real setting. This way I knew that it was supposed to be fantasy, but I never believed it entirely because there were far too many bits and pieces from the real world that prevented me from being pulled in completely. I also thought that Suzume’s supernatural abilities were given too little attention. But truthfully, none of that stopped me from thoroughly enjoying Shadows on the Moon. I picked it up at the best possible time and once I did, I was unable to put it down.


Here’s the short of it: no one should ever be too old, too tired or too cynical for fairy tales. Most days, I would be the first to say that I’m all those things, but most days I’d be very wrong. Read this when you get a chance, it’ll be good for you.

8 comments:

  1. Indeed... Fairy Tales are part of our heritage for a reason! Nice summary, Maja!!!

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  2. I nominated you guys for the versatile blogger award :-)

    http://amidnightsummersread.blogspot.com/2012/01/blogger-award-versatile-blogger.html

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  3. "the book grew up and hardened together with Suzume."

    WOW! What a perfect way to describe the feel of a book. Thanks for the review, Maja. I hadn't heard of this book before so I'm happy to now know about it.

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  4. Wonderful review, Maja. I'm happy this book was worth the read. And I really couldn't agree more about fairy-tales being a good thing. :)

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  5. Well, did you make cookies or not?

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  6. Love this review. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention! I know I'm going to be reading it soon...

    Ron @ Stories of my life

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  7. Hi Maja!
    I am definitely interested in the Japanese aspects. That is one culture I would like to learn more about. I loved your line about needing to read a fairy tale every once in awhile.

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