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Date: December 12, 2014
Shadows on the Moon
A powerful tale of magic, love and revenge with a strong female lead set in fairy-tale Japan; this is "Cinderella" meets "Memoirs of a Geisha". 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.
This is what happened during the week.
Soldiers come and kill Suzume's cousin Aimi and her father. She is saved by Youta. She is found by her mother. Terayama her father's friend and her mother get married. Suzume cuts herself in anguish. She goes to Youta one day, hoping he can help her. He helps bandage her wounds and tells her she can shadow weave. He teaches her how to use her powers, after revealing he is a shadow weaver as well. Her mother comes back from her honeymoon pregnant. They go to the Moonlit City. On the ship, she meets the foreigners. One day, she is almost pushed over the edge by her step-father. A foreign boy saves her. They arrive on land. Her mother gives birth to twin boys. Suzume finds out that Terayama told soldiers to kill her father. She runs to Youta in fright. She becomes Rin a drudge. She works with Aya and Yuki. She burns and cuts. The foreigners come to Terayama's place. Otieno the boy who waved Suzume and Terayama shoot arrows. Otieno talks to Suzume every time he can. He kisses her. She accidentally poisons her mother with sangre. She runs away, fleeing for her life. She is groped by a drunk man. She is knocked out. She ends up in a jail cell and finds the woman named Akira sharing the cell with her. She helps Akira escape. She saves Akira from a fever and becomes Yue. She goes to Akira's house. She finds out that Akira the last Shadow Bride is actually a male. Suzume decides to become the Shadow Bride to avenger her family's demise. She practices shadow weaving while she dances. She goes to a tea ceremony and sees Otieno. She leaves the ceremony after making a good impression. She meets him at the Red Bridge. Together, they make it snow for a short time. They meet again at Akira's house and take a walk together. They talk about the past and haikus. Otieno kissed Suzume. She goes to a party and plays her instrument. She pleases the crowd as is invited to more parties. She finally ends up at Yorimoto's party. This party seals her invitation or not. She is cornered by Yorimoto. Otieno saves her from Yorimoto. They have sex in the gardens. (That is what I assume.) Otineo invites Suzume to go to his land with him. She agrees. She gets her invite to the Shadow Ball. She leaves Otieno, and he leaves. She goes to the Shadow Ball. She wins the Prince's eye and becomes the Shadow Bride. She sees her mother who isn't dead and refuses to return with her. When Suzume prepares to become the Bride full, she realizes how futile this pursuit is. She almost kills herself. She doesn't, though, because of a commotion. She sees Terayama over the dead bodies of her guards and runs past him. She runs into Otieno and leaves the Ball with him.
And that's what happened this week.
A musician. Kind but not obviously so. Cares for her family until they perish. Shadow weaver. Akachi. Likes Otieno. Dances well. Fears for her life.
I was surprised by this book. I didn't think that I would like it. (It seemed to be trend that I didn't like my Battle of the Books books.) I'll admit that it was a bit dull in the beginning, but it gained my favor as the story went on. It was also quite a long book, to my surprise. My longest so far for the month of December.
I really liked the supernatural, shadow weaving element. It always fascinating when you have the ability to conjure illusions. (This reminds me of Adeline/Adelina, from 'The Young Elites'. She too had shadow/illusion powers.) This story isn't all supernatural. It's romance and drama and a minimal amount of action. I think that shadow weaving is fascinating. I would love to have that power. I would, most likely, use it to scare people on the streets. But the way Suzume use it...it's amazing. She uses it to disguise herself. To hide herself. She isn't trying to seduce or terrify. She's trying to live. She uses her powers to protect her life. Especially when she becomes Rin.
Another thing I liked was the setting. The Japanese characters. I, like many anime/ex-anime watchers, like Japan. It has rich culture. The country is beautiful. The traditions run deep. The temples. The technology. It's an alluring world that seems separate. And it kind of is. Japanese don't accept outsiders. To take an exclusive look at Japan is thrilling and a coveted peek. I love how Japan was the setting. The author didn't leave it at that. The Japanese phrases. The outfits. She truly did her research. The prince/princess setting. Royalty in books is always interesting. Kings and queens fascinate. How do they live like that? Wouldn't it be nice to have servants? These are questions that people ask. Though Suzume isn't royalty, she lives in a respected family, Terayama or Hoshida. We get a look into the life of nobles.
I think that our main girl, that I call Su, has a fantastic character change. She starts off quite the heroine. Quiet. Kind. She changes into something else. She hardens her heart at the traumatizing end of her family. She becomes distant. But she doesn't stay that way. She ends up having her frozen heart melted by Otieno. She changes so drastically. I think her change is quite amazing. She, in the middle, is a cold hearted person. Otieno breaks her stone heart. I think that is quite interesting.
I was astonished by how much I rooted for the romance. I think that Otieno and Su suit each other. They aren't an adorable couple. But they compliment each other. Otieno is funny where Su is serious. They aren't the 'let's get naked and make the bed frame creak' couple. They're the 'shy and sneaking glances at each other'. I admire Otieno's loyalty. He stays for her. Even after she betrayed him. A good quality in a person.
And the Akira is a guy twist? Wow. I really liked that. My problem is that...Su kept calling Akira 'she'. I felt like that wasn't entirely right. I think that people don't address transgender/genderfluid/cross dressing/etc enough. They should, though. It's how some people live. It's how they go through their lives. I liked that Zoë added the Akira-is-male element smoothly. It wasn't awkward.
And the self harm? I won't say I condone self harm in any way, shape, or form, but this book made the realistic aspects more readable. The author made it understandable. You don't have it shoved down your throat. It was something I could read. It wasn't outright saying she was cutting herself. It wasn't mentioning self harm. Her emotions were involved. It was, overall, more understandable.
While I wholeheartedly enjoyed this story, I did have problems.
I didn't like rushed ending. It was odd and complicated. It also felt like it wasn't finished. What happened to her parents? The prince? She just left him. What happened? We're left with too many questions. (Unless there's a sequel that I don't know of.) The action came barreling towards you all at once. Otieno's 'leaving'. The Shadow Ball. The Shadow Bride. Terayama. Everything happens. I didn't expect much, though. We had pages left, and we had enough to go.
Mostly sunny with a bit of gray clouds