Isabel's Reviews > Shadows on the Moon

Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott
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Mar 07, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-i-own, arc-copy, signed-bookplates, signed-copy, reviewed, cover-love
Read in August, 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?
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Quotes Isabel Liked

Zoë Marriott
“People trust their eyes above all else - but most people see what they wish to see, or what they believe they should see; not what is really there”
Zoë Marriott, Shadows on the Moon

Zoë Marriott
“Our greatest warriors,' Terayama-san said, 'believe that they are already dead. They live as if their lives are over, and so fighting holds no terror for them.'

A Suda-san looked gravely at him. 'That, Terayama-san, is one of the saddest things I have ever heard.”
Zoë Marriott, Shadows on the Moon

Zoë Marriott
“I would listen to her soft voice and wonder if, somewhere deep inside, she was screaming, too.”
Zoë Marriott, Shadows on the Moon

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Zoë Marriott Wow, Isabel! Your review is incredibly flattering of course (thank you) but it's also a comprehensive, intelligent dissection of the book, and beautifully written in its own right. You are an extremely talented writer. Well done :)

Isabel Thank you! I was hoping you'd comment, and I'm relieved that you enjoyed my review. I really mean everything I said! Your books are amazing. :)

Zoë Marriott You've very welcome - and thank YOU.

message 4: by Lilian (new)

Lilian OMG!!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU ISABEL FOR THE RECOMENDATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!! NEXT TIME I GO TO THE LIBARY,I WILL MAKE SURE TO SEE IF THEY HAVE THIS! AND AGAIN THANK YOU SO MUCH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

message 5: by Isabel (last edited Aug 03, 2011 11:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Isabel Lilian: Oh, hahaha, calm down!! I'm sorry to get your hopes up but this only comes out in the US in July of 2012. But don't panic! If you really want to read it you can order it online here: It's very cheap. :) It's free shipping, paperback, and so it costs $9.70. You should definitely get it!

Thank you for reading my review! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and I hope you get to read Shadows on the Moon sometime soon. I think you will enjoy it. Make sure to add it to your to-read list and watch the awesome trailer here:

Zoë Marriott *Blinks away tear* Isabel! My little girl is all grown up into my very own PR officer! I'm so proud!

message 7: by Isabel (last edited Aug 03, 2011 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Isabel Oh, Zoe! This made me giggle. I remember when you were saying something along the lines of my comment to poor, frantic me... I waited so long for this one! :D Thank you.

message 8: by Rosy (new) - added it

Rosy OMG this are the reviews I love !! Those ones that explain what the book is about !!!! !I so have to read it !! :D

Isabel *squees* Wow, thank you, Rosy! I'm glad I've decided to write more reviews -- I'm loving all this kind feedback.

And Rosy, if you want to read it just follow the directions I gave Lilian. :)

message 10: by Lilian (new)

Lilian ...............................-silence-...........................................

message 11: by Chad (new) - added it

Chad Amazing review! Sounds like a great book!

message 12: by Isabel (last edited Aug 04, 2011 06:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Isabel Thank you, Chad! You should read it!!

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

please tell me how it ends > <

Isabel Vanessa wrote: "please tell me how it ends > <"

...Why do you want to know how it ends?

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Isabel wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "please tell me how it ends >

...Why do you want to know how it ends?"

well I'm still deciding whether or not I am going to buy it so yerh :\ And according to the reviews it is a must read

message 16: by Isabel (last edited Aug 21, 2011 05:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Isabel Well, it wouldn't be any fun if I told you how it ended!! Definitely worth a read, though. Zoë Marriott at her best. ;)

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

ok good enough i just ordered the book on amazon! can't wait to read it

Isabel Excellent! I really hope you enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by! :)

Isabel Everybody please check out the trailer for this book, too, if you haven't already!

Megha I finally got round to writing a Shadows review! Check it out when you can:

message 21: by Isabel (last edited Dec 26, 2011 08:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Isabel That's great, Megha! I'll check it out as soon as I can. :)

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