{FTF Guest Post & Re-Review} Zoë Marriott on Changes in SHADOWS ON THE MOON

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I love Zoë Marriott, guys.  LOVE.  I'm so excited to welcome her back to A Backwards Story--and back to Fairy Tale Fortnight!  Today marks the US launch of Zoë's latest novel SHADOWS ON THE MOON, which is a dark, Asian-influenced version of Cinderella.

Happy Book Birthday, Zoë!!!!

Zoë was kind enough to visit us in January for A Week of Cinderella, where she revealed secrets about SHADOWS ON THE MOON with us in a fab interview.  I also reviewed her novel THE SWAN KINGDOM last year for FTF, and can't wait to review the rest of her books this summer.

What does it take to bring a book from one continent to another?  Usually, not much.  When it came to SHADOWS ON THE MOON, however, Candlewick made an unusual request, which resulted in an extra layer twisted into Zoë's novel, making it even more amazing than it already was.

Here, in Zoë's own words, is why that decision was made, and it really makes sense!

Changes in the US Edition of
~By Zoë Marriott

When I received the US copy-edit of SHADOWS ON THE MOON it came with a note from my editor that said, "I hope you'll take the editorial letter in the spirit in which it is intended!"  

Editorial letter? I thought. How odd. I've never had one of those for a copy-edit before, especially not one that's mostly intended to Americanise an already thoroughly edited text. I wonder what it says? 

It turned out to be from the Copy-Editing Manager at Candlewick Press - and it turned out that she was a haiku scholar, a lady who had loved and studied the form for years. I'd only been writing haiku (mostly as a mental exercise to help me come up with book titles) for a couple of years, and I realised immediately that I was dealing here with someone far more expert than I could ever hope to be. 

Although the lady assured me she understood SHADOWS ON THE MOON was a fantasy inspired by Japan and China, rather than a historical novel, she said she had noticed that my haiku didn't have a particularly Japanese aesthetic. I'd used a lot of metaphors and similies, and this was something a true haiku scholar always tried to avoid. Would I be willing to re-write these to make them more culturally appropriate? 

 I think that it was immensely brave of the Candlewick haiku scholar to write me that letter. Clearly there was some worry that I'd blow up at the mere suggestion that the poetry wasn't perfect as it was. However, my reaction could more accurately be summed up as follows: 

 HOT DOG! A real haiku scholar! Where have you been all my life, lady? 

 With this lady's help (in fact, she did most of the work!) all the haiku in the story except the one which inspired the title were re-written to more perfectly evoke the true spirit of this artform. And I'm delighted that U.S. fans get to see a whole new take on the haiku. It's like there's an American special edition :)

Here is an example of one of the changed haiku verses.  I chose this one in particular because it also shows the way Candlewick "Americanised" the language for its overseas audience.  This type of "translation" occurs frequently.  One of the most famous examples is the HARRY POTTER series, especially the first book, which is called THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE in British English and THE SORCERER'S STONE in American English.  

Which version of the haiku do you like the best?  I think the Copy-Editing Manager had a great idea, and I really love the look of the new poems!  

It was also interesting to see the way the book changed from one format to the other.  While Candlewick went with a different cover, they kept the same title page full of blooming cherry blossoms.  Interestingly, the gray is a little darker in the US version of the title page.  Plus, the font is different.  I do love the title font in the UK version, but I also like the simple, understated Asian flair that the US version utilizes.

The haiku verses are also set differently and stand out more in the US version.  The line breaks have also been changed.  I think I had too much fun comparing the two volumes!

For those who didn't see my original review back in January, I'm reposting it now in its entirety in celebration of both Fairy Tale Fortnight and a truly amazing, original fairy tale!


O P E N I N G   H O O K:

ON MY FOURTEENTH BIRTHDAY, when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us.  We saw them come, Aimi and me.  We were excited, because we did not know how to be frightened.  We had never seen soldiers before.
(pg. 3, US ARC Edition,
pg. 11, UK Paperback Edition)


I'm pretty sure my mind is still full of mush from SHADOWS ON THE MOON.  I'll warn you now that this review is a pale imitation of how zomg amazingly intricate Zoë Marriott's latest novel is.While yes, this is Cinderella, no, it's not any version of the tale you've read before.  While Marriott does keep various Cinderella elements intact while writing, she also opens up a world full of her own unique idea, creating a fantasy that is often brutal and raw.  A happy Cinderella story, this is not.  It's raw and gritty; Marriott paints a powerful picture with her elegantly woven prose.  This is the darkest version of Cinderella I've ever read, but I wouldn't not read it for anything.  But if you're in the mood for a straightforward fairy tale romance with little heartache, this isn't the book for you at this moment in your life.

The book trailer is beautiful and sums up just a taste of what this amazing book encompasses.  It gives me shivers watching it again now, and I want to read SHADOWS ON THE MOON all over again!

From the start, readers hearts will go out to Suzume, the book's main heroine and our Cinderella character.  She lives in a country called 月の光の国 (Tsuki no Hikari no Kuni/The Moonlit Land), which incorporates the feel of Feudal Japan and mixes it with a few Chinese elements while creating her own unique time period.  She also creates her own story mythology, building a world where Kage Oribito, or shadow weavers who "can weave illusions from the threads of the world" (pg. 55, US ARC edition), live and prosper.  As the novel opens, Suzume and her cousin Aimi see Tsuki no Ouji-sama/The Moon Prince's horsemen come up to their dwelling and slaughter the household.  Even Aimi succumbs, but Suzume is unknowingly a shadow weaver and manages to shield herself with magic as she flees for her life.  She's later saved by her mother, with whom she has a cold relationship, and discovers that even as her father's blood remains freshly spilled on the ground, her mother has decided to seek shelter with a greedy, powerful man that she's now promised herself to.  Terayama-san is a man whose danger lurks beneath the surface; only Suzume can see him for what he is, especially when he tries to push her off a boat.  Suzume winds up fleeing for her life twice more, once from Terayama-san, when she hides in the kitchens as a serving girl named Rin, and again when she is saved by Akira and becomes Yue, in honor of the moon and her shadow weaving abilities.  Akira teaches her the ways of shadow weaving and gives her the tools needed to avenge her family and destroy Terayama-san once and for good.  All she has to do is become a Shadow Bride for the Moon Prince, but in doing so, she'll turn her back on her own chance at happiness.

The characters in SHADOWS ON THE MOON are strong and endearing.  I really felt for Suzume and often wanted to hug her.  She goes through so much and is obviously suffering through both PTSD and survivor's guilt.  She cuts and burns herself in order to feel emotions.  She's been emotionally abandoned by her mother, who is the only family member she has left, and is terrified of her new stepfather.  Even when she escapes Terayama-san's grasp during a tense scene and becomes Rin, life is never easy for her, especially when she escapes for the second time.  When she meets Akira and becomes Yue, the novel gains a second wind.  Akira is a brilliant character full of surprises you never see coming.  She's a bright, lovely soul, and I love how openly she takes Suzume under her wing.  She might not always approve of Suzume's decisions, but she encourages her and helps her on her quest for revenge.  My other favorite character was Otieno, a young man from Athazie who has come to Tsuki no Hikari no Kuni in order to trade.  He's from a world where the men "had a pattern of scars on [their] face[s].  On the closest, I could just make out dots and whirls and long, straight lines that scored foreheads and cheeks and glowed dark blue against warm brown skin" (pg. 75, US ARC edition).  Otieno is light where Suzume is dark.  She cares for him, but feels she doesn't deserve happiness, especially after something horrendous happens.  Suzume carries a lot of weight on her shoulders and hates herself.  She's willing to destroy herself and her happiness in order to avenge her family.  Her plight is somber and sad, and I found myself intensely rooting for her and hoping she'd find her way out of her grief and learn to truly live.  Marriott has created a lush, extraordinary world that grows better with every delicate layer she peels away.  I would love to see another book focusing on shadow weavers, perhaps one that takes place in Athazie, because I would love to learn more about this unique country.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I like both versions of this cover!  I like the way the US Edition has a model among what looks like bamboo.  The pattern is reflected in her face, and she looks to be at peace or in meditation, something that works well with the scenery and helps her blend in with her surroundings.  I also like the bit of green adorning her hair.  The cover looks very natural.

I like the splash of red in the author's name, and think it's interesting that hte title uses a gradient in shades of white and gray, as though the title itself is a shadow.

I also like the original UK cover a lot, though!  I like the way the cherry blossoms tie into the interior design with this version.  While the US edition uses the same interior, the front cover doesn't match in this sense.

These were my initial thoughts:

This is a really pretty cover.  I love the sakura (cherry blossoms) blooming around the edge of the book.  They fit in well with the opening scene and also show potential readers that the novel has Asian influences.  I also applaud Walker Books on refusing to white-wash their model to sell more copies.  Suzume is Japanese and should be reflected as such on the cover!  Job well done :-) 

I also like the bold use of a dark, shiny embossed red on the cover; it really stands out!  The red can represent so many things in this novel, including blood, death, and revenge.  No, this certainly isn't your normal Cinderella!

The cover continues on the back.  I love the way you can't really tell what the model's expression is when looking at half her face, but when the cover is spread apart, she appears to have an enigmatic smile:

Which of the two covers do you prefer?

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Zoë Marriott
Release Date: Out April 24, 2012 (US)
(Out July 07, 2011 in the UK)
Publisher: Candlewick Press (US),
Walker Books LTD (UK)
Received: Received US edition for Review,
Purchased UK edition


A powerful tale of magic, love, and revenge set in fairy-tale Japan.

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to re-create 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 is she Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge plot to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even the one true aspect of her life- her love for a fellow shadow-weaver.


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