Suzume lived a happy life until the day the prince's soldiers turn up and accuse her father of treason. When her entire household is slaughtered Suzume barely escapes with her life but nothing will be the same for her again when she is forced to go and live with her mother and new step-father. As she finds out the depth of the betrayal against her family she is forced to go into hiding but she is determined that one day she will get her revenge.
Shadows on the Moon may be a retelling of Cinderella but in this story Suzume is no weak character who is waiting to be rescued by her prince. Instead she is fierce and determined not only to survive but also to get revenge for the wrongs done to her family and she will do whatever it takes to succeed. Suzume has very good reason to want to make sure the person responsible for her father's death is punished and I was caught up in her emotions alongside her desperate for her to succeed. You feel every moment of Suzume's grief, hurt and anger and you can't help but feel for her as she tries to find a way to deal with the unfamiliar emotion. With nobody to turn to for support she expresses her feelings by taking her internal pain and making it external. The relief she feels from cutting herself is never glorified but it is heartbreakingly realistic and added a powerful element to the story.
Suzume is a character I adored from the beginning but we are also introduced to some wonderful side characters that she was very lucky to have in her life. From the servant Youta to famous courtesan Akira and the absolutely swoonworthy Otieno I was drawn to them all and was glad that Suzume had such loyal and supportive friends. She desperately needed them considering the terrible relationship she had with her mother and the devious ways of her evil step-father. I don't want to go into too much detail about these other characters because I don't want to give spoilers but I have to say a little more about Otieno. He was the one person who saw through Suzume no matter what her disguise and who cared for who she was inside. An utterly adorable character who completely stole my heart, I want to find an Otieno of my own!
I haven't even touched on the setting for the story which is beautifully described and will take you back in time to feudal Japan. Zoe Marriott has masterfully woven history and fantasy together to create a world that you want to step into, if I could live inside this book I'd be packing my bags today! I loved finding out more about Japanese culture and was fascinated by life in the Gijo, the costumes and the practises of the courtesans. The feel of the story definitely took me back to the first time I read Memoirs of a Geisha and captured my imagination in the same way.
I really don't think I have the words to express just how beautiful Shadows on the Moon is, this story touched me in ways I can't even begin to describe and despite the fact that it is 460 pages long I read it in one sitting. I stayed up until 5am reading because nothing could have dragged me away from Suzume's world and I was desperate to see how things turned out for her. If Zoe Marriot wasn't already on my list of favourite authors this would have earned her a place there and I'll be shocked if this doesn't end up in my top 10 books of 2011 list. I can't recommend the story highly enough, it may be aimed at young adults but I think it is something that everyone should read and if you don't pick up a copy you'll be missing a real treat!