Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott. ★★★★
Trigger warning for self harm
Shadows on the Moon is a retelling of Cinderella set in a Japanese based setting. I found it to be a very good retelling, partly because it is different enough from the original tale that I didn’t know where it was going. Seriously, if I was making a list of best Cinderella retellings in YA, Shadows on the Moon would be listed just after Ella Enchanted.
Shadows on the Moon begins with the destruction of Suzume’s family and home. Out of nowhere, her father is accused of treason and killed along with any household members the armed men can find. Afterwards, Suzume goes to live with her mother, who was away at the time of the attack, and the sinister man who will shortly become her stepfather.
Suzume’s got a lot of problems, not just in terms of her situation but in terms of how she deals with her emotions. To keep herself calm, she takes to cutting herself, or sometimes burning herself. This occurs through the vast majority of the book. Suzume… she’s a mess but ultimately sympathetic. I love how she’s allowed to be morally grey and not completely perfect.
I thought there were some weird things going on with the love interest. What’s so annoying is that it’d be very easy to cut out a few lines and make him less creepy. There’s one part where Suzume asks what he would have done if she wouldn’t go with him, and he said that he brought rope to tie her up with. And this is treated as romantic! Seriously, why do authors keep doing this sort of thing? It makes him sound like a serial killer!
The setting of Shadows on the Moon is clearly based on Japan, despite the author’s note trying to claim that it’s not meant to represent anywhere in particular. I’m not the best person to be discussing how Marriott handled Japanese culture, but I didn’t notice anything horribly wrong. I suggest this review from a Japanese reviewer if you want to know more.
Even setting aside the Japanese based setting, there was more diversity than you might expect. The love interest comes from an African based culture, and one of the important mentor figures is a transwoman (and she doesn’t die).
Besides the creep factor going on with the love interest, my main complaint is that the book ended very suddenly. The main decisions were made within a few pages and then everything stopped. I would have liked a bit more time spent on the ending.
I would recommend Shadows on the Moon. I found it gripping and engaging, one of the most refreshing Cinderella retellings I have come across.