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Review: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe MarriottShadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Suzume is an innocent, fourteen year-old when her father and beloved cousin are brutally murdered in front of her by government assassins. In spite of everything, she manages to elude the soldiers as they hunt her down.

Her mother, returning from a trip finds Suzume emotionally distraught but refuses to acknowledge the tragedy and trauma of her courageous daughter. She heads to the home of a family friend who she subsequently marries.

Suzume’s grief turns inward as she tries to make sense of her feelings and new status as an unwelcome step-child.

The servant who helped her escape from the soldiers follows her to her step-father’s home and befriends Suzume. He introduces her to the magical skill of shadow-weaving, an innate power she was born with but has no clue how to use.

Things go all wrong after the birth of her mother’s baby boy. Suzume overhears the truth of her father’s demise. She runs and hides to escape only to have things go from bad to worse along the way. Eventually, she ends up with another shadow-weaver who trains her to become the Shadow Bride, the highest honor a non-royal woman can achieve in the Moonlit Land.

Suzume learns to rely on herself, get over the survivor’s guilt at her narrow escape from death, and in the end learns that there is more to life than avenging a past over which she had no control.

The Moonlit Land, though itself fictional, is a vivid depiction of Japanese and Chinese cultural and historical society. The world building immediately draws the reader into Suzume’s life, as a pampered child, a servant and eventually a courtesan’s sister.

There is a love interest with a visiting foreign dignitary’s son, which bumps this book firmly into the young adult classification but the most intimate scene in the book happens “off-stage.” Because of this, I recommend the book for more mature young teen readers.

This is book is a real nail biter, but I was often left wondering if Suzume would ever move along with her life instead of dwelling on the awful experiences of her past. More than once, I thought she was in serious need of psychiatric care.

The story ends in a true fairytale manner when the poor girl is whisked off by her Prince Charming. The twist to this tried and true plot is much deeper though and leaves the reader satisfied even though yearning to read more of the “happily ever after” part alluded to in the last chapter.

Note: I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley for review.

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Review: Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

Peaceweaver by Rebecca BarnhousePeaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

A well-crafted historical novel based on the epic verse of Beowulf, this book follows a minor character from that tale on her own adventure.

In historic Scandinavia, 16 year-old Hild is a member of Shylfing nobility, niece to the king. As she moves from role of pampered child to take her place in adult society she learns that life is not always what she expects. Her lofty visions of being her uncle’s trusted adviser and stepping into her ill aunt’s place are not to be.

Shortly after her first official appearance in the king’s court, she begins having visions. Only these visions do more than just invade her mind, they take over her body completely. In a vision-induced rage, she kills a visiting ambassador. She “knew” he was going to murder the king’s only son and heir. She expects to be rewarded.

But the king’s skald, a holy man and adviser, declares she is controlled by evil spirits and recommends expelling her from the village.

The king decides to send her to a far away tribe as a peaceweaver and wife to the about-to-be-crowned Beowulf.

She journeys with several of her uncle’s warriors, and her slave-nanny across the dangerous wilderness to her new home. Along the way she will need all her cunning, the violent visions she learns to control, and to come to terms with the prejudices of her upbringing against the people she is sent to become queen over, to realize just what a gift losing everything she’s ever known and held dear will turn out to be.

I like well-wrought historical fiction. I truly enjoyed this book. My only compliant is that the reader needs to have either read Ms. Barnhouse’s previous book or know the original Beowulf verses to really understand the storyline. Some of the sections of the book will leave readers without background at a loss as to what is going on.

I recommend this book for readers13 years old and up.

Note: I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley for review.

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Review: The Green Man by Michael Bedard

The Green Man by Michael Bedard

The Green Man by Michael Bedard coverThe Green Man by Michael Bedard

Ophelia (but please, only call her O) needs to spend the summer with her aunt when her father travels to Italy on business. Her aunt, Emily, is a poet and O wonders if she’s more than a bit crazy.  It’s important because O is drawn to write poems, herself, and she doesn’t want to go round the bend if that’s what happens to writers. Especially, poets.

When O arrives in Caledon she begins to wonder who is really taking care of who. Her aunt has let things slide because of a heart attack and the used bookstore, the Green Man, she owns, and resides above is in a sorry state. O decides it’s up to her to bring the shop back from the brink of disaster.

She sets about cleaning up the mess and the dust in the bookstore, apartment and her aunt’s life. Along the way a mysterious boy captures her fancy, and she meets some of her aunt’s old friends and learns a great deal she never knew about her aunt. An unexpected windfall might be just the thing to turn her aunt’s fortunes around. Or isn’t it?

But there’s more to it than that. There’s magic afoot, and ghosts, and an evil entity out to do her aunt harm. At least according to the memories Emily shares with her. And what about those disturbing dreams? O doesn’t know what to believe. In the end she decides belief is irrelevant and doing what needs to be done is what’s really important.

This book is an enjoyable and easy read. I did find there to be a lack of depth with the supporting character development. There are also several loose ends with secondary plots that leave the reader with unanswered questions at the end of the book. On the whole they didn’t bother me, but I would have liked them wrapped up in another chapter or two because for me the book felt “unfinished.”

Note: I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley for review.