What’s it all about?:
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.
What did I think?:
Describing this book as a cross between Cinderella and Memoirs of A Geisha is a perfect introduction to a magical and beautiful tale by an author I’m determined to know a lot more about. It was one of the books I picked as part of Chrissi Cupboard Month back in June and my sister recommended it to me as she knew I was a big lover of both fairy-tales and Japanese historical fiction, describing it as a nice blend of the two. It is important to remember however that this story is inspired by Japan only – the imaginative world Zoe Marriott has created is entirely her own. Our main character is a young girl called Suzume, who when we begin the story is enjoying her life as part of a relatively wealthy family with her beloved cousin Aimi who stays with them. Suzume is very close to her father who is presented as warm and caring in comparison to her mother who came across as slightly cold. This is all the more bitter-sweet when tragedy strikes in the form of soldiers storming their house, accusing her father of treason and killing him and her cousin. Suzume manages to escape by drawing upon powers which she didn’t know she had. For Suzume is a “shadow-weaver,” and is able to manipulate the light and shadows in ways where she can make people see things a little differently or hide herself when in danger.
Surviving the slaughter of her father and cousin might not have been the best thing for poor Suzume who is traumatised further when her mother weds the scheming Lord Terayama, a little bit too quickly for her liking. She finds herself often pushed into the background or held up as a trophy when required by Terayama. Her immense distrust of him is proved correct when she finds out something that leads to her fearing for her life. She is forced to leave the household but ends up disguised as a skivvy in Terayama’s kitchens, desperately hoping he will not discover her. This is also where her shadow weaving comes in very handy! An old servant who faithfully served her father and is now part of Terayama’s household looks after her in any way he can and is able to encourage and strengthen her “gift.” It is here that she also meets the love interest of the novel, Otieno who swoops in like a white knight and gives Suzume the first real possibility for happiness. When forced to flee again, Suzume meets an intriguing young woman called Kano Akira, famous for having been the Prince’s Shadow Bride, chosen at an exclusive ball with a very-difficult-to-get-on VIP list! She boosts Sazume’s confidence, starts to mend her emotional scars, and gives her the possibility of exacting revenge on the villain that needs it the most. But can Suzume even begin to consider the implications of becoming the next Shadow Bride? And what effect might that have on her own budding relationship? Is seeking revenge more important then love? Suzume certainly seems to think so.
So, this book had pretty much everything ticked for me. Japanese element (tick), Fairy-tale and a few nifty magic tricks (tick), and a plot that pulls you in from the moment you begin and doesn’t let up (TICK!). The world the author creates is a nod to feudal Japan and felt entirely authentic and gripping. Suzume herself is a fantastic heroine, with bags load of bravery in a life that seems to be against her. I loved the change of identities that she went through just to keep herself safe, and her tumble from nobility to poverty is told with a sympathetic and imaginative mind. I wasn’t too sure what to make of the love interest, Otieno, at first, but by the end I completely bought the relationship and enjoyed the interactions between two people that could definitely be described as “star-crossed.” The attention to detail within the novel and the unravelling of the plot are outstanding and true evidence of a huge talent. Basically, I can’t believe I had never heard of this author before and am so excited to read both her past and future works. I urge you to do the same.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):