Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Review: Shadows on the Moon - Zoe Marriott
Extent: 464 pages
Pub Date: 7 July 2011
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.
I’m always worried when I start reading a serious book, you know, one that deals with the more hardcore issues of human psychology. I worry because I might invest my emotions in the book only to find that the story is flimsy and the characters half baked. This was definitely NOT the case with Shadows on the Moon. The plot is based on the age-old and very strong Cinderella storyline but Zoe Marriott has spun it out with great originality and intense emotion.
Shadows on the Moon is one of those stories that is ironically beautiful for the way it deals with some of the ugliest human emotions. I think the most interesting thread is the vindictive jealousy and resentment of Suzume’s mother. The true extent of her fraught relationship with her daughter is gradually revealed to the reader, who at first is led to believe she cares for Suzume, so that when the cruel reality comes to light you’re hit with the same psychological sting that this innocent child reels under. Suzume is forbidden to mourn for her brutally slaughtered father and cousin, is neglected by her heartless mother and is terrorised by a malicious step father. The story creates such tragedy for poor Suzume and nurtures a realism to this heroine who turns to self-harming to ease her internal pain. There’s a real sense of the emptiness of material possessions in comparison to the real love that everyone needs. Suzume may live in luxury with her step father but the trade off is human affection.
I was reminded a lot of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden as I read: the story creates the same frustration and sense of unfairness at the lack of control the heroine has over their own life. At times it just makes you want to scream and you keep reading in the hopes that justice will come in the end, and it’s only because it’s fiction that you entertain the notion that there will be a happy ending. It gets to the point where you start to panic in moments of kindness that they will be snatched away from Suzume and replaced by a horrible loss. For me Suzume is a real ambassador for heroism as even with all the horrendous treatment she suffers she keeps going and keeps striving to succeed and do the right thing to avenge her father’s death no matter how hard it gets. She may be physically powerless but she’s a real tough cookie mentally. Zoe Marriott is such a clever writer, luring the reader into believing that self-destruction is the only natural ending for Suzume but at the last minute gives Suzume the power to obtain self-salvation.
Endings are often satisfactory in books but rarely are they perfect (for good reason, a story should be realistic!) but in Shadows on the Moon, Suzume has been through so much cruelty that you really feel that she deserves a perfect ending and I’m glad she gets one – but I’m not going to tell you what it is! I’ve been on a real journey with Suzume and I just hope that I might have a little bit of her inside me now.