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 review: While not the most well-written retelling of Cinderella that I've read, Shadows on the Moon is by far the most interesting take on the traditional story. It's set in some previous time in Japan, but this Japan comes with shadow weavers and strange foreigners from the land of Athazie. There is no traditional fairy godmother, and Suzume is no traditional Cinderella. Out for revenge, she is strong-willed and determined to do anything necessary to seek vengeance on those who killed her family. Yet Suzume has her own flaws unique for fairytale retellings: she resorts to cutting and burning herself to release anger and other emotions, and her actions are not always above moral scrutiny.
Suzume's story in Shadows on the Moon will hold readers attention for its not inconsiderable 450+ pages. The action is fairly constant, and between the author's writing style and the formatting of the book, the novel is actually a quick read for its page count. Better yet, the novel is so different from "Cinderella" that you eventually forget it's a retelling and stop looking for and expecting the events of the traditional tale; Shadows on the Moon is good enough to hold its own as an epic story without the added bonus of being a retelling. While I found that I could foresee some of the consequences of Suzume's actions and the ultimate conclusion to the novel, this did not mean that I knew how the end of the novel would be reached, and that, coupled with the unique characterizations of the Cinderella, prince, and godmother characters, made this a totally worthwhile read. My one complaint with the book is, as I hinted in the first sentence of my review, that Marriott's writing is almost, but not quite, equal to the story she tells. I'm not really sure what the problem is - was it that the plot moves too fast, or that there's not enough explanations for some things? - but the writing and the story never completely clicked together. Still, they come close enough to make Shadows on the Moon a great read for just about every variety of reader.
My ARC of Shadows on the Moon was won from Fairytale Fortnight, hosted by Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing and The Book Rat. Published by Walker Books of the UK, the book will be released on July 7, 2011.
If you really enjoy Cinderella stories set in Japan, check out the tenth century A.D. Tale of the Lady Ochikubo.