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The Moonlit Lands #1

Shadows on the Moon

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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.

464 pages, Paperback

First published July 7, 2011

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About the author

Zoë Marriott

15 books782 followers
Zoë has known that she wanted to be a writer since she read 'The Magic Faraway Tree' by Enid Blyton at age eight. She's never changed her mind in all the years since then.

She completed her first manuscript - a truly embarrassing romance novel - at age sixteen, and kept on writing books and submitting them until she had collected rejections from nearly very publisher in the UK and two in Australia. She eventually got her first publishing contract when she was twenty-two - but had to wait until she was twenty-four to see that book published (The Swan Kingdom). Her books have been longlisted for the Branford Boase Award, shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and the Lancashire Book of the Year, and have won a Junior Library Guild Selection, a USBBY Outstanding International Listing, the Hillingdon Book Award and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Prize. Over the years she's worked as an admin assistant, a dental nurse, a civil servant, and a reader for a literary scout. She has designed and run over one hundred creative writing workshops in schools and libraries, and from 2017-19 she was the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at York St. John University.

She lives in a little house in a town by the sea, with a manic spaniel called Ruskin (otherwise known as Demon Dog, Trash Puppy, Snaggletooth, or the supervillain in training) and far too many books. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at the Open University, and working on her first novel for adults.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 673 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
June 21, 2012

This is the story of an emotionally scarred girl who self harms to relieve some of the pain that comes with betrayal whilst on a journey across an AU Japan in search of revenge. Oh yeah, and she also has the power to weave shadow illusions... you know that thing you saw out of the corner of your eye, that thing that isn't there when you look properly - probably a shadow weaver at work. What more could you possibly want from a story?

Okay, what you could possibly want is about fifty pages cut out of the second half, that bit of totally unnecessary meandering about that is done for no good reason I can see. But otherwise, this is a hardcore tale of revenge that doesn't really deserve the Cinderella comparisons. I know some people love a good Cinderella retelling but I never was the story's biggest fan. Come on, the bad people are ugly and the pretty people always win in the end? If a girl doesn't have itty bitty feet, then she can't marry the hot dude? Er, not for me. So Shadows on the Moon has a ball, a prince and a stepfather? So what? Suzume attends the ball for vengeance, has no interest in the prince and cares deeply for her stepbrothers. Suzume is way cooler than any Cinderella.

The book opens with the murder of Suzume's father and cousin (who is like a sister to her) because the family were wrongly accused of traitorous activity. Suzume and her mother are taken in by Lord Terayama and given a home - but is Terayama as kind as he seems? Or does he have more sinister intentions? Along the painful journey Suzume takes, she matures and grows a lot, having to become several different people along the way. From riches to slavery to the streets, Suzume learns the extent of her supernatural talents as she goes. And as her abilities strengthen, so does her desire for revenge against the one who took her happy existence away.

For me, this book is mainly about a girl filled with anger and sorrow and the way she deals with it. This was what I really liked. But I think some people - and I kind of agree - will find the final "revenge" somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps don't read this after recently watching Ms Kiddo wreaking bloody havoc in Kill Bill. Also, the romance part of the story gets better as it goes along but it inarguably starts with nothing more than heated glances and unexplained feelings of being drawn towards the other. I understand this more from Suzume's point because Otieno was a foreigner and looked different, mysterious, etc. but I didn't really understand Otieno. It would be like me going to Japan and being mystified at the sight of - would you believe it - Japanese people!

Despite these few things, I really enjoyed it. I like a good revenge story and I think Asia or Asian-inspired settings are my new favourite.
Profile Image for Navessa.
Author 11 books7,634 followers
January 17, 2017

"Love comes like storm clouds
Fleeing from the wind, and casts
Shadows on the moon"

This lovely, poetic Cinderella retelling set in a Japanese-inspired fantasy world known as the Moonlit Land utterly captivated me from start to finish. I've become quite the connoisseur of fairy tale retellings of late, and this is a standout for me in the YA category.

It's a more mature YA. Instead of swimming in the shallows, it dives into deeper waters, tackling heavy themes like adultery, betrayal, murder, revenge, and suicide with the detail and gravity they deserve. The MC is an introspective one, and the story is told in first person narrative, so each of these themes is examined in careful detail.

One recurring theme throughout the book is downfall. So often in YA stories with the central plot revolving around revenge, the betrayal and fall from grace of the main character is swift, bloodless, and/or painless. Not so in this book. Her downward spiral takes up the first 3/4 of it.

When we first meet her, she is called Suzume, and is the beloved daughter of a country poet. Then, tragedy strikes, and her peaceful world is shattered by violent scenes of butchery and bloodshed. Just when she begins to accept her new role in society, another twist of the blade turns, and once again her world is rocked. Forced to don the mantle of a common kitchen drudge, she assumes the name of Rin. Another twist of the blade, and she is Yue, yet, to the two people most important to her in her new life, she is known as Pipit.

A young woman of many names and still more faces, Suzume/Rin/Yue/Pipit is a complex and carefully crafted character that I believed in from the first. She is introspective, cunning, committed to her cause, ruthless at times, intelligent, but also flawed. Which, to me, makes her a believable character.

I would highly recommend this book to readers interested in a unique, feminist, and diverse take on one of the most popular fairy tale retellings.

The only thing keeping this from a five star read for me were some details that I couldn't really overlook. For a full examination of these, I recommend reading Lisa's wonderfully written review.

This review can also be found over at The Alliterates.
Profile Image for Jillian -always aspiring-.
1,821 reviews201 followers
June 4, 2012
(Actual Rating: 3.5 stars)

In Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott, Hoshima Suzume's life changes within moments when her father is accused of treason against the Moon Prince, and she sees her once-happy life stolen and destroyed. In the panic that follows, something strange awakens within Suzume, an ability to disappear and blend into her surroundings as she flees her devastated home. Once the situation settles, Suzume's mother returns from her trip and retrieves Suzume...although Suzume herself is uneasy by the way her father's friend, Terayama Ryoichi, swoops in and takes Suzume and her mother into his household without hesitation. Grief overtakes Suzume even as she slowly begins to realize the more sinister possibilities behind why her father was accused of treason...

Many readers have been fascinated by this Japanese-flavored take on Cinderella, so I was enthusiastic to start reading it because (thanks to my years of anime watching/manga reading) I've been in love with Japanese culture for quite a while. However, once I did begin the novel, I found myself a bit conflicted: there were elements I absolutely loved while some other things annoyed me. (In some ways, my reading experience reminded me of how I felt with Marissa Meyer's Cinder -- another YA Cinderella retelling, oddly enough.) Given my mixture of opinions, I decided to tackle my review in an untraditional way, so here are the pros and cons I encountered as I read Shadows on the Moon:


-Yay for more diversity in YA! Asian heroine, Asian-inspired land, a love interest who is of pseudo-African descent...awesome! I would love to see many more explorations of diversity like this in fiction, especially in the fantasy genre that's far too often "white European"-influenced.

-The idea of shadow-weaving (illusionary magic) was innovative and mysterious. Even though illusion as a magical ability is in no way uncommon in the fantasy genre, I was still intrigued by the ability and its varying uses. I wouldn't even mind following other shadow-weavers in other books (*hint, hint*).

 -Suzume's journey from nobility to tragedy was very intriguing and, at times, haunting. As I followed Suzume through her varying circumstances, there were few times I didn't feel my heartstrings tugged. Even with my opinions all tangled about this book, I always felt sympathy for Suzume as a character.

-I admired and appreciated how some very serious real-life issues, such as self-harm and contemplation of suicide, were handled over the course of the story. It's rare to see such thoughtful consideration for these issues in contemporary fiction and even more so in fantasy. Given how little these issues are seen in fantasy novels, you would think fantasy characters never experienced the kind of self-destructive depression so often found in real life! But that wasn't the case at all in Shadows on the Moon. The depression here manifests in very real and sometimes very harmful ways.  

-The ending satisfied me yet left more than enough room open for a potential companion novel or sequel. I would love to see more of this world, whether it be the Moonlit Lands or Athazie, because there is so much possibility in this mysterious world of magic manifesting in such intriguing ways.


-Compared to most YA novels, the build-up of the story was slow, so much so that it was sometimes a detriment to the story. This is entirely a matter of taste. Some readers gobble up novels that take a hundred pages or more to "get going"; as for me, I'm rarely one of them. Shadows on the Moon nearly lost me a number of times throughout its first 200 pages, but I kept on because I love (and want to see more) Japanese-influenced stories. The pay-off, of course, was eventually there within the pages (thank goodness).

-As much as I enjoyed the Japanese spotlight in this story, I couldn't help but feel that the handling was either too "faithful" or not "ambitious enough" depending on the point within the story. Do I believe this story could have been told without the Japanese words sprinkled throughout the narrative and would have lost very little through it? Yes. Do I believe that the story seemed a bit too reliant on Japanese culture and background despite being a "new world/land"? Yes. As a fantasy land, it really didn't seem divorced enough from real-life inspirations. It's one of those stories where, if it had been tweaked a little and sold as "historical fiction with hints of magical realism," I would have been much happier.

-The romance, as sweet as it became, was built on a shaky foundation. I eventually liked Suzume and Otieno, her love interest, quite a bit together -- though it took me a while to warm up to them. Electricity-ridden glances, traces of insta!love, and clandestine meetings...not the newest territory for the foundation of a relationship in YA. (It didn't help that Suzume and Otieno shared their first conversation on page 170, have a few scattered conversations to which the reader is not privy, and then on page 178 they kiss for the first time. Much telling and not showing went on in the early stages of building their relationship, and I was disappointed by that. In some ways, I understand -- every writer fears that their novels will be shunned for "focusing too much on romance" -- but romance, no matter how heavy or light, should always resonate with the reader. I didn't always feel that here.) However, near the two-thirds mark, I found myself charmed by the interactions of Suzume and Otieno. No, I was never fully convinced by them, but I was happy for them when they were together.

-I felt the very nature of how the shadow weavers recognized and sensed each other to be less of an interesting nuance and more of a plot contrivance. Far too many times did Suzume get out a sticky situation just because there was another shadow weaver nearby, and I felt that to be a bit...too easy. I'd rather the heroine help herself, find a way by herself, than to fall back on "others of her kind" who happen to be nearby to help.

-Suzume, despite her strength as a character, was far more passive than I would have liked (as far as her revenge storyline goes). For much of the latter two-thirds of the novel, Suzume hungers for revenge...but her "pursuit" in itself is not very active. Though a promise not to harm her enemy bars her from direct vengeance for a small part of the story, I couldn't help but be a bit frustrated by Suzume's lack of activity; she is a far cry from Edmond Dantes (of the infamous The Count of Monte Cristo, which Marriott herself cited in an interview was part of the first inspiration for Suzume's tale), who actively sought ways to see his vengeance enacted, always the puppet master pulling strings. Suzume's eventual plan of action (which wasn't even her own idea, but another's) seemed the "safe" way to ensure that the reader would not fault Suzume in any way. Even the eventual "revenge" doesn't come from a maneuver on Suzume's part but a chance circumstance. If she indirectly commits acts of vengeance, even despite all the intent within her heart, how can we condemn her? As I said, all of it seemed a "safe" way to approach a female character who wants revenge.

Despite my qualms, I would never claim Shadows on the Moon is a bad novel or even a mediocre one; in many ways, the story is very fascinating and refreshing. Some of my issues with the plot and characterization simply impeded my overall enjoyment of the novel. As for other readers, I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves Japanese culture and/or fairy-tale retellings. If one or both apply to you, then chances are that Shadows on the Moon will be a new book for you to devour and love.
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.3k followers
September 11, 2013
I’m not going to be short with the praise here. I loved Shadows on the Moon pretty hard. But this isn’t a light-hearted novel to be embarked upon by just anyone. Hardcore epic fantasy fans used to large tomes, new worlds, language and speech that they’re not previously familiar with and novel pacing that takes its time, will be the ones who really get this book.

Suzume is a complicated character with an intense story to tell. Shadows on the Moon chronicles this sprawling, high fantasy tale faithfully and with great attention to detail. Once again, this will probably be something those familiar with the genre will appreciate. The nerdy details and pedantic chronicling of a new world and submersing yourself into it occupies a particular reading niche that’s not going to endear itself with everyone. This is a book for a patient reader, someone easily swept up in something different and amazing. A lot of it hinges on how you relate to Suzume, who I personally adored.

She’s not a typical heroine in that she is vengeful and very dedicated toward that revenge. Bloodthirsty and, at one point, vicious. She doesn��t lie to herself to make nice with the world, she doesn’t make up excuses for other people being horrible. She is an astute observer of human nature, intensely aware of the people around her – flaws and all.

The novel is flush with rich language, and gorgeous writing. Marriot takes her time in description to give form and purpose to every aspect she focuses on. I assure you I don’t want to wax poetical about this and, I’m about to sound really wanky when I say that she often manages to describe the essence of something just as much as what it is.

Steph will say that it just kind of moseyed along and stalled at points. I have a very respectful, well-thought out argument to the contrary.

Just shut your mouth

Don’t go giving me your reasonable, understandable criticisms! I won’t have it!

Of course, there’s two absolute scene stealers in the book: Otieno and Kano. Kano Akira, the fairy godmother, because she was just delightful and sweet and hilarious. Then Otieno because he was delightful and sexy as hell. I loved him so hard and that little lawn scene between him and Suzumi? DAMN girl!

Over all, I loved the writing, the attention to detail, the story telling and the characters. This is most certainly not going to be a book for everyone but it is one of the best damn Cinderella retellings I’ve ever read.

This review, and others like it, can be found on my blog, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,917 followers
January 25, 2012
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 have 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.

For this review and more, please visit The Nocturnal Library
Profile Image for Lisa.
110 reviews381 followers
June 7, 2012
Shadows on the Moon was a disappointing read. I had every expectation of liking it. I love Japanese culture, history, and food. I watch anime. I even took three years of Japanese in high school. I'm also a sucker for Cinderella stories so the idea of a Japanese-inspired Cinderella intrigued me. There were many good ideas in Shadows on the Moon but unfortunately they were poorly executed.

Hoshima Suzume leads a tragic life. Shortly after the death of her father and cousin, her beautiful but cold mother marries her father's wealthy friend, Terayama Ryoichi in order to avoid poverty and ruin. It quickly becomes apparent that Terayama-san is a cruel and selfish man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Forced to flee from her stepfather, Suzume assumes the identity of Rin, the kitchen servant, and later Yue, the courtesan, in order to take revenge on Terayama-san for the injuries he's inflicted on her. Along the way Suzume falls in love with Otieno, a handsome foreigner, and is mentored by Youta, a servant, and Akira, an ex-courtesan, who help her develop her power of illusion called shadow-weaving.

I hate to give points to a book simply because of ethnic diversity—I shouldn't have to because it shouldn't be a rare occurrence—but unfortunately in the current YA market I must praise Shadows on the Moon for not only having a Japanese-inspired setting (the Moonlit Land), but also for having a love interest from an African-inspired culture. It's nice to see an author attempt to write a story from a non-western perspective even if in many ways the author's own culture comes through in the text.

My main problem with Shadows on the Moon is that, although the Moonlit Land borrows heavily from historic Japan including language, customs, food, and clothing, the characters were very modern and western in their thoughts and actions. For example, there seemed to be a distinct lack of respect for authority, and the importance of honor is absent. Most of the characters, including Suzume, are very individualist rather than collectivist. In contrast, their customs are based on a non-western collectivist belief system, which begs the question of how these cultural practices came to be.

Further, the main character idealizes Otieno's culture, which is open and expressive, two very western concepts. This was problematic in two ways. One, because it assumes that expressiveness and openness are better than the alternative, and two, because there was no explanation of where Suzume had learned her appreciation for foreign culture. It's also interesting to note that I thought the characters, including those from the Moonlit Land, were shown to be fairly expressive, though we're told that they aren't.

The second biggest issue I had with this book was the writing. It was overly simplistic for the targeted age group. Although it improves towards the end, the first two-thirds were filled with short choppy sentences and lacked sentence variability. Additionally, the author chose to throw in random Japanese words throughout the text, which were distracting. The words were not used consistently and there were some instances where the words weren't defined, which could be problematic for those not familiar with the Japanese language. On top of this, using Japanese words simply didn't make sense because the story didn't take place in Japan. Presumably the characters were speaking in their own made-up language which was then translated into English because a) no one would be able to understand it, and b) because most authors are not as brilliant as Tolkein and lack the skills needed to develop their own language. Given this assumption, it makes no sense to include Japanese words when English words would have sufficed.

In addition to the cultural issues and simplistic writing, I found that the pacing and characters to be problematic. Several times over the course of the novel, I was very bored because of how slowly the plot moves. Too much time is spent on mundane tasks, such as the kitchen tasks during the Rin portion of the book, and courtesan training in the Yue portion. There is surprisingly little action in this story for how long it is.

Additionally, I didn't find the characters to be very compelling. Many of them were unlikable, others were underdeveloped, and Suzume is inconsistent. She also frustrated me quite a bit because a lot of her unhappiness was due to her own actions—or inaction—which made it hard to sympathize with her. Suzume's love interest was far too underdeveloped for me to feel anything for him, and their love was unbelievable since there was no basis for it. It was another case of instalove as acknowledged by the love interest himself. Neither their personalities nor their backgrounds seemed to be very compatible. The only thing they had in common was magic.

In short, this book at its heart wasn't very Japanese, the writing was weak, and the plot and characters weren't very compelling. I would recommend that readers looking for a good Asian-inspired fantasy story check out Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and its sequel Eona by Alison Goodman, which are better written and have a much more developed plot, romance, and mythology.
Profile Image for Dilushani Jayalath.
994 reviews162 followers
June 12, 2021
I was wondering, which part of this boom was the Cinderella retelling? The part where she becomes a drudge or the part where she goes to the Shadow Ball?

If you’re going in expecting a story where the mistreated girl ends up with the handsome prince and has her happily ever after, you are mistaken. Yes in a way Suzume does get her handsome prince but it is not in the classical Cinderella manner. The story puts a serious twist on the tale and gives a fantasy novel with a different ending. We don’t have our Heroine being a pauper and scrubbing floors all the time, we have wielding pins and throwing rocks at her enemies. We have her feeling unapologetic for her actions and takin revenge to her own hands. In a way I was glad we didn’t get the typical retelling. The setting itself is in a pseudo- feudal Japan which adds another layer of charm to the story.

It is the sort of story that will be charming the first time you read but unfortunately somewhat forgettable. Still I would reconfirm that the story itself was a unique joy to read.
Profile Image for Cora Tea Party Princess.
1,323 reviews805 followers
July 4, 2017
5 Words: Family, revenge, power, beauty, magic.

Oh. My. God.

How on earth did it take me so long to read this wonderful, beautiful book?

It was amazing and I will absolutely read more from this author. It's like she just UNDERSTANDS EVERYTHING EVER. I could not get enough.

I will absolutely read more by this author, because this was just incredible.

YA Shot Buddy Read 9th May - 23rd May.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,127 reviews2,172 followers
March 24, 2013
Rating: 3.5 Stars

If you've been following my status updates for this book, you can probably understand why I am so conflicted over my rating. On one hand, Shadows on the Moon is an incredible story. Although it is marketed as an Asian re-telling of Cinderella where our princess must avenge the death of her beloved father, it is less of an Edmund Dantes-eque revenge story and more of a contemplative tale of self-growth.

If you read the synopsis of this story, it easily leads you to believe that Marriott's tale follows the general outline of a well-known fairy tale. Contrary to popular belief, however, very little of this actual story is centered around any type of Cinderella-type story. It has its main players, but everything else is left up to the imagination of the author.

Now, this is both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, the narration never feels forced or stifled by the fairy tale it is based on, much like Marissa Meyer's Cinder did for me. Yet, at the same time, I found that this story lacked plot for much of its length. For a little over half of the story, the true emerging plot was hard to find. We journey with Suzume as she watches her father killed before her eyes, as she discovers her powers as a shadow-weaver or one who can weave illusions, as she cuts herself, dealing with her grief the only way she knows how, as she falls in love with a handsome foreigner, as she commits acts of indescribable cruelty and runs away from her life. Only then is she presented with an opportunity for revenge and she cultivates herself to become Yue, the most beautiful woman, so she can win the favor of the prince and, in turn, seek her vengeance.

Nevertheless, I cannot disregard the fact that the beginning of this story is slow and hard to get into. It is a chore to pick it up, especially without any goal seemingly in sight. Once it really gets going, though, it utterly sucks you in. Despite the near insta-love of the romance in this novel, I utterly fell for it. It is sweet, caring, and perfect without unnecessary misunderstandings or drama. Suzume's growth throughout the novel, her careful exploration of her grief, and the detail to aspects of the society in this fantasy world is all masterfully created. Each of the secondary characters serve a larger role and have their own depth and truly, I loved this story.

BUT, I must warn readers not to jump on board with the revenge scheme too much. In the end, it is all rather anticlimactic, the villains I once thought to be complex, gray figures revealed to be nothing more than stereotypical black-and-white characters to end the story quickly. Suzume easily wraps up what should have been a long ordeal and all in all, the resolution to the revenge that fueled Suzume's life for so long was massively disappointing.

I did enjoy it immensely, but I can't say if I really recommend it for a lot of other readers. You need to be patient and possibly not a fan of The Count of Monte Cristo. Or, you know, if you are, just don't expect epic revenge adventures from Asian girls that are on the sword-fighting, cunning level of what Alexandre Dumas can write. I honestly went into this book expected Suzume to turn into a shadow-weaving ninja assassin, but sadly, this doesn't happen. Shadows on the Moon is very much unexpected and while this isn't a bad thing, it wasn't always good either.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Simona.
147 reviews28 followers
December 11, 2017
Okay okay I need to like scream because oh. my. lord.

In the beginning I was kind of iffy about this book, I wasn't sure where it was going and I had NO idea what to expect.

The story was dark, heartbreaking and compelling. In the darkness was this BRIGHT, JOYFUL sun, also known as Otieno 😍 He made this book. Seriously if not for Otieno, the negativity would probably have killed the story, so the stark contrast of his character just gave it LIFE.

When I read books I REALLY focus on the characters more than anything else so I was happy that there were such complex and amazing characters driving the story forwards.

Zoë Marriott did a great job with putting a new twist on Cinderella, though up until the last few chapters, the book was more of a 3.5 stars for me, because I was getting tired of the CONSTANT self-hate since that's what dominated in this story and everything else seemed almost secondary. But like I said, the last few chapters were SO worth it ❤️

If you're looking for a retelling, and like the idea of a fairy tale Japan, I definitely recommend this.
Profile Image for Krystle.
911 reviews335 followers
April 21, 2012
2.5 stars.

Ah, I just love books that incorporate, in some way, Asia but more specifically, Japan. Can you say excited? I was really eager to read this and while I wasn’t entirely satisfied, I wasn’t left miffed, which is a very important thing.

I’ve read a book from this author before (The Swan Kingdom) and I liked it fair enough, so I guess I knew what was getting into but I did up my expectations seeing as how I expected her to improve upon that one to this one. For the most part, her world building is a lot more detailed and developed with the same beautiful descriptions thrown into the prose when it’s needed. She tackles more heavier themes and I’m quite happy about that but I just wasn’t blown away by the story.

Why? Well, the overall tone of this book is very, very angsty. Most of it stems from the main character, Suzume (or any of her other identities). She’s a very broken, insecure, vulnerable, damaged, and extremely depressed young woman. There are a whole host of other things as well compounded by decisions she made and tragic events that have been pressed upon her in traumatic ways. She has a lot of self-hatred and self-doubt and questions herself all the time. I mean, I understand why she feels that way and why she behaves the way she does but for me, as a reader, gloomy and angsty stories aren’t things I enjoy reading.

Of course, I realize that it is necessary and everything is portrayed in a very realistic and believable manner but more than 3/4ths to 7/8ths of the book is this way and I began to feel unhappy myself. Not something that makes me eager to read more of it, if you know what I mean. The only other book I read that was similar to this was Everneath, which I actually enjoyed surprisingly but her depression arose more from situational causes rather than the character’s own personal demons.

Another thing that I didn’t care for was the romance. Sure, I loved the character himself, Otieno, and the whole diversity element to him as it was very respectfully done, but as a romance lead for our character? Nah, not so much. He was very forceful or… aggressive rather in his attentions toward her. Not a “I’m going to stalk you and subtly or not so subtly emotionally abuse you and act like a domineering jerkwad” like a lot of our YA males these days but more of a “I like you, and I know you like me, and we will get together eventually so spare me your resisting and let’s just get on with the smooching and ever after, shall we?” Meh, I wasn’t too receptive of that and he didn’t seem to have as much deviation in his character presentation instead of the wealth of development we get with Suzume. Oh, well.

What I did really love was the amount of research and detail put into this book concerning the Japanese aspects. The author really took a genuine and sincere amount of time delving into Japanese culture, mythology, and historical influences and we can see her earnestness in her work (compared to other books like *cough* Spirit's Princess) and I’m so very happy and appreciative about that. I can respect and support author who takes their time to represent and respect my own culture in return. Sure, some of the place names may have been a bit… unwieldy in Japanese but you can’t really fault much for that.

One pet peeve of mine is that well the insertion of Japanese words into dialogue. I mean, it’s expected that the characters would be speaking Japanese because this is taking place in a Japanese-inspired fantasy land, but to have abrupt and random Japanese words thrown in to the dialogue for the heck of it irks as well as distracts me. I’m totally fine with place names, proper nouns, or other things specific to Japanese culture that can't be expressed in English with an approximate but for common words that can as easily be said in English without losing any meaning irritates me a lot. It’s extremely jarring and the word just sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m talking about her using baka (stupid or idiot) and baka yarou (akin to stupid bastard) at random places in the text when there is no real justification or reasoning for her to use it. My eyes become immediately drawn to it and pay far more attention to it than I should when I should really just be taking in the scene in as a whole.

Anyway… the pacing of this book (as you can guess) is pretty slow. Not one who’s looking for a zippy light read. My favorite parts of the book are when Suzume uses/learns to use her shadow weaving abilities and the beginning and ending. Very awesome, I must say. The whole gender role and gender identity bit that’s tackled in here by Lady Akira is very similar to how Lady Dela functioned in the Eon series by Allison Goodman, which was fun but maybe not with the same amount of depth.

And… the author’s note bugged me a bit as it kind of dismisses the role of the Japanese influences that are drawn upon in her book. I mean, I don’t know why it was put in, seeing as how much of it plays a part in the story. Meh. And, my word! Look how long this review is! I better wrap this up pronto!

A very good effort in a lot of places and a highly recommendable book that plays very smartly on the Cinderella fairy tale but it’s too bad I couldn’t enjoy it more.
Profile Image for usagi ☆ミ.
1,197 reviews279 followers
May 4, 2012
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.

(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
Profile Image for Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer.
1,512 reviews5 followers
September 20, 2018
Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, Suzume is able to recreate herself in any form – a fabulous gift for a girl desperate to escape her past. 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? Destined to capture the heart of a prince, she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even love.

The short review...

I really enjoyed this Cinderella retelling... Because it didn't FEEL like a Cinderella retelling! We start with Suzume, a Cinderella like you've never read before... She is more than just a drudge for a step-parent, no first she looses her cousin and father who are brutally slaughtered in front of her. She only escapes because of a hidden talent she has for the shadow-weaving art and an unlikely fairy godmother who protects her because of that very art. From here she descends on a long journey into the darkness. Through this descent she changes identities in order to escape the repercussions of her father being betrayed. In this way the fairy tale is preserved but also totally turned on its head!!

I will admit I was captured by Suzume's journey. There is this mental health issue that was so believably woven into what happens to her... Suzume starts to self-harm in order to relieve the pressure she feels, and its so genuine and visceral! I flew through the first half of this book, all setup, and desperately wanted to see Suzume happy... what would that take? I didn't know. Revenge? Love? Friendship? Power? Vindication? Truth? The beauty of the end was it was a little of everything! It may have been a little rushed and a little too cleanly achieved but it came from an empowered young woman, who made her own choices.

Cover & Title grade -> F / A+

The original cover is horrid. The absolutely worst that a cover could be and honestly the first time I read a rave review I seriously thought they were soft in the head after finding that cover... It is THAT BAD!! Then I found the recent release cover and I realized that this book was just the victim of poor initial marketing... and from that moment on I just pretended that the original covers never existed! I love this cover so much because it subtly captures what is so great about this book... Suzume's different incarnations, her focus on revenge and the subtle Asian feel to the fantasy world.

Why should you read stand-alone* Cinderella retelling, Shadows on the Moon?

Suzume's first "fairy godmother" and a favorite character of mine! He is her guide in the shadow weaving arts and takes a chance on her when anyone else would have thought him crazy... Yet when we learn why from his own back history it's so heartfelt and believable! He had a hard life but did all he could for Suzume and was almost like a surrogate father to her.

Romance is not a focus in this book but it does run through the book and add tension about Suzume's motivations. I felt like Otiene could have come from several different cultures from American Indians to Africa, but I didn't mind that. It made the world feel more fantasy and yet I understand that he was a POC. I enjoyed learning about him as a person.

GAHHHHH! I RAVE ABOUT AKIRA in my I Heart Characters... But I'll share a little about her... She is of a diverse nature that is not seen in YA (or most) books often. Much is made of her history and like Youta she acts as a fairy godmother and sister to Suzume when she is most desperate for aid. I loved how she supported Suzume no matter her choice but also had a contingency plan!

-The Moonlit Lands
The author states upfront that this is based on Japan but is really a fantasy hodge podge of her own making. It feels at once historical and modern with a style that speaks of the past but with politics and thinking that is closer to our own. I really enjoyed that kind of fusion world and didn't mind that it stole from historical Japan and other Asian cultures without focusing on all the details we readers tend to dislike about a historic setting.

*A stand-alone because the second book is a companion retelling of beauty and the beast set in the same Moonlit Lands as this book but doesn't touch on Suzume.

As a Writer...

Okay so as I do with 4 star reviews... Why is this NOT a 5 star when I clearly enjoyed the book and loved almost everything about my reading experience?!

First, Suzume's insistence in sticking with revenge to the end. For me it was crystal clear where the end, end was going to finish even if I didn't think there was enough pages to manage it. And sure enough it did. Many call these types of endings twists, but they're just contrived so we can see the outcome of all the preparation (for the ball). I would have preferred Suzume being drawn into the ball against her will, to protect Akira or for some other reason that had been equally developed mostly off the page (and not contrived). There are many other motivations besides revenge.

And then we have the pacing problems at the end. The beginning very laboriously and beautifully develops the start of Suzume's story only to race to a crammed ending! And the fact is the politicking right before the ball took too many pages and was plain boring! It should have been cut down to give more page space to a well paced end. That isn't to say I was unsatisfied with the end just that it was certainly rushed.

The mental health was quite believable and genuine up to the end... Fact is that when you self harm it doesn't just go away because you have a friend and a lover. It's an unrealistic end to a condition that is recurring. I would have liked some acknowledgement that Suzume being happy wouldn't get rid of her condition, but that she would manage it with the help of loved ones. That would have been the gorgeous cap on this portrayal of self harm.

Shadows on the Moon is a stand-alone* Cinderella retelling set in a fantasy Asia. It follows a talented girl who can shadow-weave taking on any identity, who has the crap knocked out of her by life and starts to self harm, cutting herself. As she maneuvers through her situation helps comes in the form of , Akira, and diverse love, Otiene... I highly recommend it!

⋆ ⋆ ⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building

You can find this review and many others on my book blog @ Perspective of a Writer. See my special perspective at the bottom of my reviews under the typewriter...

Please like this review if you enjoyed it! *bow* *bow* It helps me out a ton!!
Profile Image for Elevetha .
1,807 reviews165 followers
January 12, 2014
1.5 stars. Blah. I did not like this book. The overall idea of Cinderella being a brave strong girl who decides to take matters of revenge in her own hands and has the magical ability of shadow-weaving was decent but the execution of it in this book was junky. Not only were the characters just inane and boring; the story turned into mindless stupidity.

I. Disliked. This. Book.

The writing\prose was fine.
The idea for shadow-weaving was awesome but we didn't know enough about the art to truly appreciate it.
Characters were unbelievable, boring, underdeveloped, and I just didn't connect nor did I care. Except for Youta! But he was not in it very much. *frowny face*
Book was way too long and could have been edited a lot. Or, you know, had something actually happen in the book. Action please? Anything? No? Okay.
Content wasn't a whole lot but terribly unnecessary.
Plot was barely there and then ended up not mattering in the least.
I found it to be a waste of my time.
Not recommended.

Content: Birth control, homosexuality, a fairly low-level "fade to black", a attempted rape scene, etc...
Profile Image for Noelle.
373 reviews247 followers
April 10, 2012
3.5 stars
Shadows on the Moon is a lovely retelling of Cinderella set in a magical version of feudal Japan. The Cinderella of this story, Suzume, witnesses the murder of her beloved father and cousin and barely avoids death herself. The traumatic event shatters Suzume and she compartmentalizes the broken pieces to survive.

Marriott does an excellent job portraying Suzume's post traumatic stress disorder and the effects of suppressing emotions out of fear (or other reasons). The circumstances of the attack on her family aren't immediately clear and Suzume and her mother must assume new identities and a life in the protection of a close friend of her father. As Suzume begins to suspect their new protector of more sinister motives, it is even more important for Suzume to hide her true self and the fight for her life begins anew.

During the initial attack on her family, Suzume was able to escape because of the manifestation of her shadow-weaving powers: the ability to manipulate her appearance to those around her. These abilities were fascinating to explore but I was frustrated at their lack of rules. It seemed to me that Suzume's skill level would increase exponentially whenever it was needed for the plot. Yet Shadows on the Moon is a fairy tale and so successful a one at that, I was able to make certain allowances I might not normally accept so easily.

There are some truly special supporting characters in Youta and Akira, doing double duty as Suzume's fairy godmothers, and Otieno, Suzume's love interest and opposite in emotional honesty.

At first the reader experiences the vivid terror, rage and grief with Suzume but as the story goes on, Suzume doesn't just suppress her feelings to others, she does to the readers as well. As a result, her narration has a serene, placid tone no matter what she is recounting to the reader. As Suzume's sole focus becomes vengeance it is both vindicating and heartbreaking. After enduring so many hardships, you want her to avenge her loved ones but you also want better things for her. When Suzume finally begins to unpack the feelings she's hidden away for so long and starts to heal it is a beautiful thing.

Shadows on the Moon is a solid, if long, fairy tale retelling with moments of pure magic.

This review originally appeared on Young Adult Anonymous.
Profile Image for Steph Su.
958 reviews450 followers
February 17, 2012
YOU GUYS, do you know how long I have waited to read this book? Since Zoe Marriott first revealed the gorgeous UK cover for SHADOWS ON THE MOON, over a year ago. I simply can’t resist a beautiful Asian face on a YA cover, and I have enjoyed Zoe’s previous books. I am so, so happy to say that SHADOWS ON THE MOON was one of those rare books that I didn’t want to end.

There is something great to be said about every element of this book. According to the author’s note, SHADOWS ON THE MOON is not set in feudal Japan, but rather a society similar to it. And Marriott has certainly done her research. Things such as the vocabulary for different kinds of clothing and the exact procedure for a tea ceremony may not add directly to the plot, but they certainly help immerse readers into Suzume’s lush, simultaneously foreign yet familiar, world.

Suzume masterfully treads the thin line between her mask of feigned placidness and actually being a placid character. After all, at what point does the person you pretend to be actually become a part of you? However, Suzume’s soothing narration helps ground what could be melodramatic events, so that they never go beyond the point of credibility. Her reactions to the events happening to her are natural and relatable. We sympathize with Suzume, and also hope that, if we are ever in a similar situation (which hopefully we won’t be!), we can endure in a way as strongly as she does.

SHADOWS ON THE MOON is a big book, but it never feels too long. It is a fantasy of epic worth and length that will nevertheless fly by, appealing even to readers who don’t often read fantasy. Suzume is a heroine for the modern-day reader, and Zoe Marriott’s unique take on the Cinderella tale will have you soaring through its pages.
Profile Image for Kirsty (Amethyst Bookwyrm).
627 reviews72 followers
May 30, 2015
Suzume has lived a happy life until her father is accused of treason and him along with her cousin are killed. Now she has left almost everything she has known to live with her mother and soon to be step-father. But Suzume is not a normal 16 year old as she has a magical gift. When she discovers she has been betrayed she uses her ability to escape and recreate herself, but who is the real Suzume, the lowly Drudge or the beautiful courtesan. With her unwavering resolve to get revenge, she is determined that nothing will get in her way, not even love.

Shadows on the Moon is an enjoyable standalone fantasy novel inspired by Japan which is a dark fairytale book about revenge. While it is based loosely on Cinderella, none of the characters are morally black or white. It is a quick read and is easy to get into this book which has suspense and romance, and deals with self-harm.

Suzume/Rin/Yue is a very likeable character but does not have an easy time, she has many different personalities in this book from the lively Suzume to the shy Suzu and others, while I didn’t agree with some of her decisions I could understand her need for revenge. Otieno is a really good character as he never gives up and is a bit innocent to the way of the world, and is a strong silent type. I also love Akira as she is caring and not your average YA character.

Shadows on the Moon has a sweet ending and I would recommend it to fans of fairytales.

This and my other reviews can be found at Amethyst Bookwyrm
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,233 followers
April 24, 2012
4.5, 5 for unflinching-ness.

If you've seen my Top 10 Fave Fairytale Retellings vlog, you'll already know this is going to be a super-positive happyfuntime review.  I mean, this landed at number 6, so yeah, obviously I liked it lots.  But now I get to tell you why, and as much as I am glad to do that, I just want to start by expressing how I wish I had read this book as part of a group.  A book club, a lit class - doesn't really matter, but I think this book would make for such good discussion, and I wish I could have had that experience with it.  (Which just means I need to get it on the agenda for my library book club, and then discuss their faces off.)

Alright, so why did I like it?
Well, I guess the biggest reason would be that Marriott didn't hold back.  I feel like she put her all into this, like she poured everything she had into it, and it shows.  There's heart and soul there, and thought and passion, and nothing makes people care about something more than seeing someone else's passion and love.  It's contagious. What I really, really loved - what endeared Zoe to me (even more) and landed Shadows a spot on my top 10  - was that she didn't hold back anything. It's dark and unflinching and raw and powerful, but for all of the dark she put in there, she also put in light.  For all the hurt and pain and obsession, there is also love and friendship and warmth. There's so much love here, love of all kinds, and it's all treated the same - as love. Marriott doesn't make a show of it, or treat it as anything more than a simple statement of fact: love is love is love. I just want to applaud that. The whole story is round and complete, which is always a huge win for me. (Dynamic writing! *jazz hands*)

And Suzume is the vehicle for all of this. She's relatable and understandable, even when she's in these really dark places.  (Maybe especially when she's in these really dark places.)  She's fixated, and sometimes it's so painful to watch, but at the same time, you're sort of fixated right along with her.  Some authors will push a story along on a very thin premise and you wish the MCs would just get over it.  Not so with Suzume. You never feel like she should just "get over" anything; conversely, some authors will have something really serious happening, and then a love interest comes in and poof! - everything's fixed. Again, not so Suzume.  It feels as close to real as a book based on a fairytale with a main character who can weave shadows could possibly feel.  Her pain and desire to disappear was palpable and it made for a good balance against her single-mindedness.  It reminds you that it's not all justified righteous fury, that there is guilt (both incurred guilt and survivor's guilt) and shock and maybe a little PTSD all at work. Those are layers you don't always get in any story, let alone a fairy tale retelling.

And that's part of what makes it great.  It never beats you over the head with the Cinderella story.  It works and uses the key elements well, with an interesting take on the Stepmother/sister dynamics, and the transformative pauper-princess thing, but it's definitely its own story.  The bones are there and the plot points are well done, but it's unique and strong enough on its own that it will work just as well for those who don't like fairy tales or don't even realize it is one.  There's gray area all over the place (and you know I love my shades of gray ( dammit, I can't use that phrase anymore )).  Aside from one or two notable exceptions, every "hero" and every "villain" and every character in between has their shades of gray.  They have their flaws and their strengths, their weaknesses and passions and motivations.  It's what takes the Cinderella story and brings it to life, but it's also what sets it apart.

But of course I can't end the review without mentioning the world-building or the romance. Yes, of course there's a strong romance. There were times when Otieno was a little too magically good and upstanding for me (because I am a jaded bitch), but then, this is fantasy so at the same time I scoffed, I also secretly sighed.  (Don't tell.)  (But I mean, Otieno...have you seen the trailer? He's shirtless - and painted.) And of course the world building is spot-on.  It wouldn't have made it into my top anything if that weren't the case. The shadow-weaving and Suzume's desire to fade into someone else - or into nothing at all - was very well done, and the backdrop of the Moonlit Lands was just enough - no info-dumping, no overkill, just an intriguing, vivid background to the story.

So, like I said.  It's in my Top 10 for a reason.
(So PICK IT UP already!)

Don't forget to stop by and enter to win a copy of the US version  (pretty!! ---------->):
Ends 5/5

And make sure to leave Zoe some love on her interview!
Profile Image for Eleanor.
576 reviews112 followers
December 22, 2018
I am kind of sad about this one, because initially I was loving it a whole lot more than I expected to! It is an older fantasy, and that cover is not...great, but I wanted to try it out. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a much shallower, lighter story, because there isn't much in the way of a blurb on the back of it, and that really doesn't sell the story very well. But this was actually quite dark and had a lot more meaning to it. This was not what I was expecting, and I am quite disappointed with the major element that brought my rating from a four star to a three: the romance. MOre detail on that in a minute, but it just really didn't need to be part of the story. It dragged it down and held it back, and now that it is kind of a big thing at the end of book one, I don't know if I want to continue with this series....


- I really enjoyed the writing style. It was very pretty and not too simplistic and it made the story flow really well. Captivating, I suppose. And also, the pacing of the story was pretty good - every scene and element of the plot all flow together very well. It is quite hard to lose interest in the story - the only thing I would say is that I think there could have been a bit more of a climax towards the end, because some of the story felt a bit sedated. But I had no problem with the execution of this story! Also the worlbuilding was quite good - Asian fantasy (Japanese, I think), and I really liked the details of the world that were in here. There could have been a little more on the basic layout of the world and how it worked, but I think the story was more about the main character than anything else.

- The main character of the book was also quite an interesting figure. I liked her. I thought she was a flawed and well rounded person that you could still get behind and support her, even when she made perhaps the "wrong" decisions. Trigger warning for self harm, which I was not anticipating finding in this book, but be aware of that when you pick this up. I think there could have been a slightly more developed cast of side characters - it felt like the story was very much centred around the main character, and developing her, which was fine, but I think the side characters might have had a little more depth.

- Onto my mini rant - the romance. I could see it coming from a mile off, maybe even after I read that mini blurb on the back of this book which said something along the lines of "he won't give her up, not even to a prince." Are you getting that possessive vibe already? But because the blurb had so mis-marketed the book to me in so many other areas, I thought I could ignore it. And to start off with, the seeds of the romance were actually okay. It is quite rare that I will find myself vigorously shipping two characters together and getting very excited about it, and though that was not the case here, it was fine. It was only once the romance got going that I had a problem with it mainly that it was sexist . In a minute I'll throw some quotes at you, but basically he kept trying to force her to be with him even when outwardly she was trying to get him to go away. Okay, maybe deep inside she wants to be with him, but he doesn't know that, and if a woman is seriously trying to get you to go away, YOU GO AWAY.

Pipit, Pipit, do not deny me. I cannot bear it. (after she tells him to leave her alone and is angry about it)

Do not argue unless you want me to hound you until your life is a burden. (just what??? she wants you to leave her alone, why would you say that?)

If I have hold of you, you cannot run away so easily. (self explanatory)

You have not trusted me enough. (btw, they barely know each other at all, and he is angry at her for not trusting him?)

I told you this time you would not get away so easily. (ew)

My stubborn woman. (okay, but if she has asked you to leave her alone, you do not take that as a sign of affection and encouragement.)

Otieno cut me off. (so once they kind of get together, he basically takes over and won't let her make decisions for herself, even though she's taken care of herself for the entire book.)

So yeah, I was let down by this. All in all, the book was a very solid and well written little story, ruined by one major element. And I don't think I will read on in the series, because I don't care so much about the characters and plot that I want to drag myself through that nonsense again. I recommend if you can get past what I wrote above? There are good elements to the story, and what makes me sad is that the romance was so unnecessary anyway, and didn't even need to be there. So yeah, a good book ruined by a terrible romance. Not uncommon, really.
Profile Image for Vernieda.
265 reviews
April 23, 2012
Essentially an Asian fantasy retelling of Cinderella woven around a revenge plot.

+++ good diversity and representation! The fantasy setting is mostly based on Japan with some Chinese touches. There are envoys and diplomats from Africa. One of the major supporting characters in the second half of the book is trans.

+ an interracial relationship in which both parties are not white! That doesn't happen often in genre fiction.

+ the revenge story was good. Suzume has massive survivors guilt and it funnels all into her quest for revenge. And I am fond of these types of revenge stories: the ones in which the wronged party is a woman and in order to seek justice, she transforms into this idealized woman and essentially weaponizes femininity in order to destroy her enemies. (See Diora from Michelle West's Sun Sword, who is pretty much my fictional ideal of this archetype.) Suzume isn't Diora, of course, but her emotions were raw and true.

- the ending was kind of rushed and haphazard. I felt like it lost steam once .
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
January 13, 2014
I really loved how this one had diversity and eastern influence. The writing was gorgeous and the love interest totally swoon worthy. The main character had a good amount of character development and I really could connect with her. The beginning was a little slow for me, but the second half was much better.
Profile Image for Isabel.
78 reviews
August 3, 2011
I first found out about Shadows on the Moon more than a year ago, and the minute I did I fell in love. For twelve months I frantically counted down the days to its release, expecting what I knew was probably FAR too much from even the author of one book I adored, and another that I thoroughly enjoyed. When I finally got my hands on Shadows I was incredibly excited to read it -- and also very nervous. For the first time I was scared that I wouldn't enjoy it as much as I had anticipated. But the minute I began to read I lost all my nervousness, because by the end of the first chapter I already adored the story. I needn't have worried at all. Shadows on the Moon completely went above and beyond my highest expectations. It made me cry with sadness. It made me laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. It made me squeal through my fingers at the exciting parts; made me quiver with fear and gasp with horror and shock. It made me sigh with happiness, and made tears come to my eyes at the romantic bits. It stayed with me even when I wasn't reading it. I couldn't help myself! I daydreamed about it all the time, when I was eating dinner, talking to friends, or riding in the car -- sometimes I had to put the book down for a while just so I could let it all sink in.

So, what made this book so amazing? Prepare yourself for a very long rant.

First of all, let's talk about our main character, Suzume/Rin/Yue. I don't remember the last time I saw a POV as powerful, beautiful, and horrifying as this one, even looking back at some books that I call my absolute favorites. Most of the time she was far from likeable, and her obsessive nature and destructive tendencies drove her almost to the point of insanity from the time when she begins to work in the palace kitchens as a drudge, and finally runs away after committing what she thought was a terrible crime. Her desire for revenge oftentimes blocks out everything else, even when she is so bent with grief that she is forced to hurt herself, again and again, just so she can feel alive. At many points I felt like I wanted to scream at her and force her to see sense and the only way she could possibly find happiness -- with Otieno. Close to the end of the story they declare their love and she agrees to turn her back to her dreams of vengeance against the murderer of her family. There came a point in the story where I could hardly believe that she would ever be able to live with herself again -- I desperately wanted Suzume/Rin/Yue to find happiness. Despite everything, she was a sympathetic character, and even after all her wrongdoing and bad choices, she was vulnerable and I really cared for her. Also, her development throughout the story is absolutely stunning, yet so subtle I didn't realize how much she grew until I went back to the beginning of the story.

Here is an excerpt from the end of chapter thirteen, one of the really powerful and horrible moments when Suzume (in this case, Rin) balances on the brink of insanity. Note that this is an excerpt from an ARC of the book, so the final version could be altered somewhat.

A large, male shadow approached her and held out his arms. After a moment's hesitation the woman went to him. He gathered her up and embraced her.

It was the window of my mother's room.

A strange, high-pitched noise filled the air around me. A kind of keening, like some little animal caught in a trap. Dying.

It wasn't until my knees buckled that I realized the noise was coming from me.

My ribs seemed to clench around my lungs. I could not breathe. Sobs piled up in my chest like stones, trying to escape. I knelt there in the dark, in the dirt, alone.

I pulled at my kimono sleeve until my arm was exposed, and with dirty, ragged fingernails, ripped open my skin.

Let's turn to the main guy character in the story: Otieno. I adored him! Otieno truly cared for Suzume, even after she betrayed him again and again, and their romance was true and beautiful and honest, if there somehow can be such honesty even after our main character lies and keeps the truth from him. I did miss Otieno's absence during the chunk of time in the middle of the story when he and Suzume/Rin/Yue are apart. But I can't really complain because if his presence had been forced in there somewhere it would have seemed forced and honestly the story is better the way it is. Here is an excerpt -- again, possibly subject to minor change from this copy to the final one -- of Otieno and Suzume together, when they declare their love for each other. If you don't want to be spoiled then don't read the part in italics.

He kissed me, and I responded as if I had no will of my own, my lips opening, my body moulding to the shape of his. I found the places I had hit, touching them gently now, carefully running my fingers over his face. We kissed until we both ran out of breath.

"Tell me you love me," he said, his voice ragged.

I drew in a shaky breath. Something in the back of my mind was screaming, telling me that this could not happen, that Otieno was not meant for me. At that moment, I could not make myself listen. For once, the truth was stronger in me than lies.

"I love you."

Suzume's mother's relationship with Terayama-san, the man she marries after her husband is killed, is also extremely well-written. I pitied her and despised her in equal parts -- actually, I hated her most of the time. But that does not mean that the author does not write it in such a way that I can't understand her obsession and fear of Terayama-san -- or why she is willing to give up her own daughter to be with him. I found it revolting and deeply saddening. My heart went out to Suzume every time, as you can tell by the first excerpt I showed you. If you don't want a spoiler, please don't read this excerpt, only if you have finished the book -- and ONLY THEN. If you haven't read it and have no interest in reading it then that is your serious problem. Just skip over the italicized part.

"Suzume," my mother whispered behind me, clearly constrained by the presence of the servant. "Please."

Now I did look back at her. "Suzume is dead. I am Yue. And you are nothing to me."

I walked down the stairs, past the servant, and out into the main room.

This brought tears to my eyes. I pity both Suzume and her mother, but I know that Suzume has no other choice, and I felt a fierce pride in her as well, reading this. I feel sorry for her mother, who is so lost, but I despise her as well for how weak and selfish she is. She doesn't know how much Terayama-san has broken and warped her. She doesn't understand, so she thinks what she's doing is right.

Zoë's writing is incredible. Her prose is poetic and descriptive, and flows wonderfully. It doesn't drag on and yet it focuses on the action as well as Suzume/Rin/Yue's emotions almost the entire time. This is the kind of writing style that I am always aiming for, and hopefully someday will be able to fully achieve.

I think that the weakest part of the story -- at least, the part that I liked the least -- is probably chapters twenty-three and twenty-four, the first two chapters of part three of the story, called Yue. I wouldn't be surprised if Zoë Marriott struggled particularly with both of these chapters, or if she didn't and it is only my opinion that this part is rather weak. Suzume/Rin/Yue's vision in chapter twenty-three wasn't incredibly well-written, and with Zoë's talent to write exactly that type of thing I was surprised by that. Perhaps it was that the vision also went a little too far, or that one or two things about the vision that I think were supposed to be real don't make sense to have happened considering some minor details later on in the story. But they are very small things. At first I worried that part three wouldn't be as powerful and well-written as parts one and especially two, but while it offered many different strong aspects of the story, I didn't find myself disappointed at all!

All in all, Shadows on the Moon was by far one of the best books I have ever read and probably ever will read. It is also perhaps the most powerful and disturbing and gorgeous book I have ever read -- all put together. I hope that after reading this review you will simply go and read this book, I don't care HOW, but it would be a mistake not to. I have almost no criticisms whatsoever. All I can say is... when am I going to be able to read FrostFire?
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,004 followers
March 18, 2013
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers HERE

The day of Suzume’s fourteenth birthday was also the day that changed her life forever when the men came to kill her family after her father’s name was dishonoured in the Court of the Moonlit Lands. They killed her father and her cousin, who was the sister of her heart, right before her eyes. It was on that day that Suzume, prompted by survival instinct, learnt that she was a shadow-weaver, capable of creating the illusion that saved her life as she hid from the attackers.

Thankfully, her mother had been away and upon her return makes the decision that allows them a chance of a future: they change their surnames to avoid the dishonour of being connected to that fallen-from-grace name and move in with a close family friend, Lord Terayama , who eventually – and perhaps too soon – becomes Suzume’s stepfather. Suzume is forbidden by her mother to ever speak of what had happened and they are supposed to move on. But Suzume cannot forget her beloved, innocent relatives and the wrong they suffered and the strain is too much for her – cutting her own skin becomes a way of seeking relief and shadow-weaving, the only way to hide in plain sight.

Time passes and Suzume comes to discover the true face of Lord Terayama and after that her life spirals out of control as she needs to take on other identities in order to survive and avenge her family. She will do anything to exact vengeance on Lord Terayama, even turn her back to the possibility of a new life away with the man she loves.

Shadows on the Moon is a retelling of Cinderella and it follows the original just closely enough to be identified as such but with sufficient, wholly unique differences to make it entirely this author’s own story. And it is a great story too, with an epic feel to it, spreading over many months and with the main character taking over different personalities.

Speaking of personalities, it is perhaps not surprising that the theme of identity is a central aspect of this story: it starts with Suzume’s being told by her mother to simply forget and not talk about her father or her cousin/sister. To someone who is clearly suffering of PTSD (how could she not after witnessing the gruesome deaths of the people she loved?) and survivor’s guilt, this is quite possibly, the worst thing that could be asked of her. Following that order, Suzume has to hide her thoughts, her memory, her lack of a smile which she replaces via shadow-weaving with a smile that belonged to her own cousin. Right there, she wears the face of another and the worst thing is – no one notices. Suzume disappears little by little under the weight of her own feelings. The only respite she gets is by cutting he own skin, which has to be another thing to hide under the illusions she creates. Taking a quick detour to talk about this side of the story, I appreciated the way in which the author incorporated self-harming in the story with respect and believability, at least to the best of my, admittedly non-extensive, knowledge.

Going back to the problem of identity, this is definitely my favourite aspect of the story: because eventually, after going through so much, and donning so many masks, Suzume will have to decide WHO she wants to be and how she wants to live her life and within the constraints of this novel, this is certainly not an easy decision to make. It means growing up and I loved that making that decision involved understanding what it means not to forgive someone, and to never forget wrong-doing. This understanding also comes from identifying the villains of this piece: is it Lord Terayama, his ambition, his determination to have everything and everyone he wants? Is it Suzume’s mother, who is equally ambitious and determined but in a more subtle yet extremely hurtful, self-centred way? Or is it Suzume herself, for reasons she doesn’t dare say out-loud?

The setting is quite interesting too, as the Moonlit Lands are clearly based on feudal Japan but adding the fantasy aspects of the shadow-weaving makes it something else and apart. Although I might add, the fantastic elements were not clearly defined and at points felt a bit frustratingly underdeveloped and even contrived in the way that they were incorporated into the story. This latter point for example, came with how the gift of shadow-weaving explained so easily the connection between Suzume and two of the other main characters: her friend Akira and the romantic interest Otieno. Because these other characters were also shadow-weavers and in this world shadow-weavers just “know” others with the same gift, this provided a simple explanation for how Suzume connected to other people in a short-cut way, at least to start with. Although I did feel this to be true especially with regards to Otieno (the “they just knew” explanation always exasperates me), one needs to be fair and to say that there is enough development as the story progresses to reconcile first impressions with actual knowledge of the other person, and I felt myself reluctantly won over by the relationship between Suzume and Otieno. I say reluctantly because not only it starts with insta-connection but because he could be too insistent and pushy at times and that never goes down well with me. However, it needs to be taken into consideration the fact that Suzume stands up for herself and makes her own decisions. Which brings me to my final point: Suzume as a protagonist. She is not extremely assertive or extremely kick-ass, hers is a quiet strength and I loved her for it.She starts out as a child and grows up so much, unaided by loving relatives but helped by friends. She suffers terrible things, has to make choices in order to survive and to deal with the consequences of those choices.

All things considered, I loved reading Shadows on the Moon. It is a cool retelling of Cinderella, with a great protagonist – Suzume and the choices she made, right or wrong, were what made this book such a great ride.
Profile Image for Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies).
861 reviews276 followers
May 30, 2011
Here's a book that I really loved. I flew through Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, desperate to find out how it would end. It was really addictive reading for me, especially as it gave such a new and strong outlook on the Cinderella story. I loved the setting (a fantasy world similar to feudal Japan), Suzume's character, from her magical abilities to her vulnerability and especially her relationship with the beautiful and honourable Otieno (who is utterly swoon-worthy!).

Shadows on the Moon is a retelling of the fairy tale of Cinderella. I felt there were enough of the original story for it to be recognisable as such but also that there are enough differences to make this uniquely Zoe Marriott's own creation. The added elements to the story really blew me away. I really thought that the story really lends itself to be told in a magical Japan. I really loved every detail, from the way in which people dressed to life at court. And we see a great deal of the different area of life as Suzume transitions from happy farm girl to that of a noble daughter, followed by life as a kitchen drudge and to finally a beautiful courtesan.

It begins with Suzume as a young girl. She's playing happily with her cousin when officers storm her home, killing both her father and her cousin. Desperate to flee and save herself, Suzume ends up hiding in the kitchen amongst the ash. There, a servant, Youta, helps her to hide until Suzume's mother returns and it is safe. The trauma of witnessing the deaths of the people closest to Suzume has a really profound effect on her. It doesn't help that Suzume's mother refuses to speak of them and Suzume must hide her feelings and she must mourn privately and without the support of her only living relative. Suzume becomes quite depressed and begins to self-harm in an attempt at expressing some of her overwhelming emotions - of the grief of her loved ones, of her confusion and anger towards her mother, who quickly remarries.

But Suzume is strong, and is able to adapt, even when she learns a terrible secret and must abandon the life she knows to become a servant. And then again later, she must adjust again when she must flee her home for fear of her life. I thought the relationship between Suzume and her mother was wonderfully done, the complexity of that relationship was heart-breaking and very realistic to me. There's a selfishness to Suzume's mother that made me incredibly angry, especially when she stands by the cruelty of her husband and becomes complacent to his terrible deeds in order to protect her position and standing. I love it when an author writes so well that it makes me loathe a character so utterly as I did with Suzume's mother and of her new husband.

I also loved how Suzume's magical ability is shown gradually and how Suzume uses this gift in order to hide the emotions from her face while surrounded by her cold and distant mother and her vile and ruthless step-father. But once this terrible secret is uncovered however, Suzume makes it her life's purpose to avenge her father and cousin's death, using her shadow-weaving ability to make other changes in her life besides a neutral expression. She hatches a bigger and more elaborate plan involving the prince and the Shadow Ball.

And amidst Suzume's grief, and her obsession with revenge, the character of Otieno brings such hope and light to this story. I absolutely adore Otieno. There's just something very open and good about Otieno. I was completely won over by him from the first mention of him and description of his good lucks and his tattoos. Suzume and Otieno have one of these really powerful emotional connections and despite Suzume's changing position in society, they continue to cross paths and be drawn to each other. But even this love will not stand in the way of Suzume's mission. She is determined to sacrifice everything in order to attend the Shadow Ball and attract the eye of the Prince, even if that means giving up on love and her freedom.

I really and truly loved Shadows on the Moon. I love that even though Suzume has been rather unlucky with her mother and her step-father, she has gathered to her close friends, such as Youta and Akira who go above and beyond in their affection and their love for Suzume. I loved reading such a wonderful character as Suzume as she deals with her grief and her depression the only way she knows how. I think books that handle such topics of self-harm in such an open way are a much needed addition to the YA market. I love the subtle though quite kick-ass magical skills that Suzume possesses and that though there is wonderful and endearing romantic relationship, it isn't with the prince and that Suzume really doesn't make romance her number one priority.

This book is such a joy to read. It comes highly, highly recommended by me for lovers of Japanese culture, of fairy tale retellings, of strong female characters and of wonderful storytelling.
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,700 reviews873 followers
March 9, 2017
Wow, wow, wow. This is one of the best Cinderella retellings I've come across. The story is rich, the writing lovely and the romance heart-breaking. This book just got so so many things exactly right. Zoe Marriott, I am impressed and saddened that I have no other books of yours to read at this very moment.

Just as amazing the second time around.
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews707 followers
December 16, 2011
I gush now… (again)

This late in the year, I truly wasn’t expecting another one of these books~ another one of these books that I love. I’ve been on a reading wave of ups and downs and kept things interesting by switching from realistic contemps to paranormals to adult UF’s and to whole a hell lot of ‘dytopias.’ Sure, I’d come across some duds but thankfully there were some really good ones in there as well. This definitely counts among the latter.

Two things I am sure of : (1) I was not expecting to feel what I felt for her, for her story this late in the year. And (2) this is definitely a favorite. If the combination of fantasy, romance and a setting that’s Japan inspired doesn’t get you, will me saying it brought a lot of what I felt for Eon/ Eona back do so? (And I love those books. No joke.) What’s better though is how this story kicks things up a notch because the writing is superb. At one point a bit poetic, it was heart breaking; then at other points, was absolutely vivid in description.

Hers starts with tragedy. That plus everything after it molded her, strengthened her. “My feebleness disgusted me. Who was this trembling idiot of a girl? How had such a weak, stupid little creature survived when others- so much braver, cleverer and more lovely – had not? But the fear the fear lay on me like a second skin, smothering and cold.” But it was her power in particular was quite new to me, that made her just a little bit more.

a. Each version of her tugged at me. All aspects of her: the awkward and unsure, the quiet and haunted, the beautiful and seductive mystery, and finally, the avenging guilt ridden one, had me fascinated. Everything she went through, everything she had to do… had me feeling so many things (I was fearing, cheering, tearing up a little for her.)
b. It’s been likened to that of Cinderella’s. Given that, there’s bound to be a fairy godmother (or two) in it. Those who played said role, had me wanting a little more from them too. Both Youta and Akira San had me waiting for the little tidbits they’d reveal of themselves. It’s safe to say, that I enjoyed the both of them just as much as I did Suzume.
c. Her mother. When Youta explains a little of what Suzume could do, he unwittingly touches on my issues with her mother. Her mother, her mother… her mother! I don’t know what to say about this woman except that I’m torn.
d. Plus you all have to get a load of Terayama, the BEST bad guy yet.



Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,237 followers
April 13, 2012
Gorgeously crafted, intricately detailed, Shadows on the Moon illustrates Marriott’s remarkable story weaving skills. Suzume’s evolution from the carefree girl who frolicked with her cousin under the cherry blossoms to the strong woman at the end of the novel is particularly compelling. The novel is reminiscent of Alison Goodman’s Eona series in its depiction of the struggles of a girl against severely adverse situations. I remember thinking that Marriott has done her research in the writing of this novel (a bit more on this later) and I am right, Marriott has done a lot of research and it shows in the way her story unfolds.

The pacing, the plotting, everything is spot on and the tiny shades of a Cinderella story blooming here and there does not take away from the overall. Suzume is a fascinating character but she is not the only one. All the side characters serve to make the story more intriguing. Also, the love story itself is fun to read and I like how the sexuality in the main characters is approached. The novel contains a bit of everything and anyone who likes fantasy novels will enjoy this one. So really, the novel itself is completely readable and comes highly recommended by yours truly.

What I did take umbrage with (somewhat, really) is how in the acknowledgements or maybe it is the note at the end, Marriott claims that the world is a new one and has no connection to any Asian country and I find that remiss of her as the Japanese influences are very obvious and credit should go where it deserves to go. I believed the country the story is set in is Japan, albeit not a Japan that exists in history but one in which some things have been altered. I don’t understand why she does not acknowledge the richness of Japanese culture that influenced her writing so that threw me off balance. I mean, the language used in the book is Japanese and that definitely points to a specific Asian country so…really, I don’t get it. At all. As a contrast, I offer Eon/Eona. While that series definitely had Asian influences, it did not name any, nor was it specific to any and as such it was easy enough to believe that there were no specific Asian countries.

You may think I am hung up on something that is admittedly slight but it bothers me. Because I believe that authors who write about cultures (and from perspectives not belonging to them) walk a fine line between appropriation and misappropriation.

But anyway, I believe the book, without the author’s note, is extremely readable and satisfying and you should totally read it. The other stuff I mentioned (I only did because I couldn’t not mention it, that’s the way I roll) is something you will notice if you study literature and if you are concerned with the same things I am.
Profile Image for Kirsty .
3,435 reviews329 followers
November 12, 2016
Shadows on the moon is a beautifully woven tale which I thought was a wonderfully written with a real "fairy tale" like feel to it. I enjoyed every page and didn't want it to end.

Shadows on the moon has been described as Cinderella meet memiors of a Geisha and I really think that is a brilliant comparison to start with. I loved the orientalness (not sure that is a word but hey!) of the book and loved pretty much everything thing that came along with that orientalness like the setting, the culture, the outfits and the whole world built up around the characters

I loved the main character Suzume and her outlook on her world. As a character I found her brilliantly easy to relate to and was desperately keen to champion her cause (not that she needs championing as she does very well on her own two feet thank you very much). I liked the added dimension that her abilities added to her and enjoyed seeing how she grew into them as the story progressed.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was the whole fairytale-esque feel to it. It had the same qualities of all those fairy tales you loved as a child but with the added bonus that the main girly character had an edge to her and wasn't about to lay down and wait for her prince to rescue her.

I actually also liked that the book was historical fiction and gave you a real feel of the time and place it was set in but didn't over burden you with tiny details which can make some historical fiction hard going to read. I really think (which my history teacher head on) this is the way to engross your audience and get them interested in any given historical period rather than over doing it and making them switch off.

The story itself I really enjoyed. I won't begin to go into detail for fear of spoiling parts or not being able to do it justice but I will say that it continually kept me guessing throughout and I loved all the twists and turns it continued to throw at me all the way up until the very last page. Certainly a book that kept me wanting to read more and more to the point where I struggled to put it down.

All in all I can honestly say that Shadows on the moon is a fantastic offering from Zoe Marriot, with an awesome main character, a captivating plotline and a wonderful fairytale like feel to it. Definitely a book a will be recommending whole heartedly to others.
Profile Image for Shijia.
508 reviews14 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-graveyard'
December 21, 2020
dnf @ pg.230

I never NEVER dnf so far into a book. I thought I could keep going to be honest...

But the writing is SO DRY. The beginning was great but around page 150 it fell downhill. Nothing really happens. We don't learn much about shadow-weaving and the pacing was just BAD. I only liked the fact that it was set in Japan and the romance could've been great, but it fell flat too soon.

This book is a perfect example of great concept but poor execution. Do not recommend.
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