Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Book One

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Overview

In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of ...

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Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Book One

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Overview

In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills. When Takeo's village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor—and to his own unimaginable destiny...

An international bestseller, Across the Nightingale Floor is the first book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Satisfyingly rich in incident yet admirably spare in the telling...Hearn has created a world I anticipate returning to with pleasure."&#151The New York Times Book Review

"The most compelling novel to have been published this year."—The Times (London)

"The most extraordinary novel...The passion and rapture of this story is so compelling that it's almost worth delaying your holiday for."—The Independent on Sunday (UK)

"Complex...fast-paced, arousing adventure reminiscent of Arthurian legend that's told with all the urgency of a modern-day thriller."—Book Magazine

"Across the Nightingale Floor is as exciting a debut as any in recent years&#151part Shogun, part Lord of the Flies and entirely enchanting."—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573223324
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Series: Tales of the Otori Series, #1
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 137,854
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Lian Hearn is the pseudonym for the writer Gillian Rubinstein, currently living in Australia, who has a lifelong interest in Japan, has lived there, and speaks Japanese. All five books in the Tales of the Otori series—Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow, Brilliance of the Moon, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, and Heaven's Net is Wide—are available now from Riverhead Books.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
This first book in a new epic trilogy has already become a bestselling sensation in England and Australia, earning comparisons to Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It begins with Legend of a Nightingale Floor in a black-walled fortress—a floor that sings in alarm at the step of an assassin. It will take all the skills of an ancient Tribe, and all the passion of true courage, for one orphaned youth named Takeo to discover the magical destiny that awaits him...across the nightingale floor.


ABOUT LIAN HEARN

Lian Hearn is a pseudonym. The author was born in England, has studied Japanese and has a lifelong interest in Japan.

A CONVERSATION WITH LIAN HEARN

I started writing Across the Nightingale Floor with the four main characters in my head and the opening sentence in Takeo’s voice. I was in Akiyoshidai International Arts Village in Yamaguchi Prefecture; it was a damp, humid afternoon in September. The light was pale and opalescent. Water trickled from the pools around the artists’ residence, carp splashed and occasionally a kingfisher swooped above the pool. I was writing in a notebook with a black gel pen I’d bought in Himeji. I wrote ‘My mother used to threaten to tear me limb from limb.’ Later I changed this to ‘into eight pieces’. I occasionally like to use Japanese idioms translated literally to give the feeling that the book is not written in English.

For many years before I had steeped myself in Japanese history and literature, reading widely, watching films, studying the language. Now I had several weeks alone in Japan in this idyllic place; the challenge was to see if I could bring to life what had lain within my mind all that time.

Slowly the world of the Otori began to evolve. I often went to Hagi, the old castle town of the Choshuu clan. I visited samurai houses and looked at artefacts in museums. I walked in the mountains behind the arts village, through the rice fields and by the river. Everywhere I tried to picture how my characters might have lived five hundred years ago. When people spoke to me I had to listen intently, using my ears as I had not done since I was a child. I heard everything but was more or less mute myself. So Takeo became.

I became addicted to gel pens and bought them by the handful. I carried my notebook with me and wrote on the road, on trains and planes and in waiting rooms. I was in Fukuoka when the entire ending of the book fell into place. I could hardly contain my excitement and emotion, yet actually to write it was painfully difficult.

In Japanese art and literature I am fascinated by the use of silence and asymmetry. I like the concept of ma: the space between that enables perception to occur. I wanted to see if I could use silence in writing. So the style is spare, elliptical and suggestive. What is not said is as important as what is stated.

I am interested in feudalism. Whenever democracy and the rule of law break down human societies seem to revert to feudalism. I wanted to write a ‘fantasy’ set in a feudal society, but I wanted to write about real people whose emotions are all the more intense for being restrained by the codes of their society. There are no traditional villains in my story though there are antagonists. Iida Sadamu and Otori Shigeru are from the same class and background. Iida has been corrupted by power, whereas Shigeru is compassionate by nature but essentially they are the same. One is not a monster, the other not a super-hero. My characters seek power, they are flawed and they make mistakes, but they love life and grasp everything it has to offer.

I had intended to write only one book but long before the first book was finished it became obvious to me that the story I had been given would not be contained by it. It seemed to fall naturally into three parts but was written without a break as one overarching story. I wrote it all out longhand in four large notebooks between September 1999 and April 2001. From June 2001 to March 2002 I rewrote onto the computer. In the second half of this period Across the Nightingale Floor, which I finished in September 2001, was going through the editorial process: hardly a sentence was changed in any of its editions.
 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Revenge is a motivating factor for many of the actions of the characters throughout the book. As Takeo recalls how he knocked Iida from his horse he admits his prior ignorance of revenge, "I knew nothing of the wars of the clans, nothing of their rigid codes and their feuds. I had spent my whole life among the Hidden who are forbidden to kill and taught to forgive each other. But at that moment Revenge took me as a pupil" (pg. 7). In this situation revenge is a more powerful force than Takeo's religious beliefs. Does revenge continue to override all of Takeo's other emotions throughout the rest of the book? What other emotions motivate Takeo throughout the story?
     
  • Upon meeting Shigeru, Takeo is told to change his name from Tomasu to Takeo. In remembering this Takeo says, "And so between the waterfall and the top of the mountain I lost my name, became someone new, and joined my destiny with the Otori" (p. 10). Besides protection why else does Shigeru think Takeo should change his name? Does changing his name affect Takeo's sense of who he is?
     
  • A little while later, Takeo observes that others can still tell that he is a member of the Hidden. Takeo is surprised by this and admits, "I thought I had buried my old self along with my name, Tomasu" (pg. 18). When Takeo is finally able to truly disguise his Hidden identity from others has he buried his former identity from himself as well? Discuss the role of dissembling in the novel, and the ease or difficulty with which characters can change their identities.
     
  • Takeo's loyalty expands beyond one tribe to three: the Hidden, the Otori, and the Tribe. Sometimes those loyalties will conflict with one another. Will Takeo ever be able to become his own person and make his own decisions or will his actions always reflect his loyalties? And can he exist with conflicting loyalties? Does society even allow one to make his own decisions?
     
  • Takeo's final mission is to kill Iida in order to avenge the death of Shigeru. However, though Iida dies, Takeo is not the person who kills him. Does this bother Takeo? Is his mission still successful? Does the fact that everyone thinks that Takeo killed Iida make Takeo feel better or worse?
     
  • Lady Maruyama becomes a role model for Kaede because she possesses traits that Kaede never expected a woman to have. Kaede is immediately drawn to Lady Maruyama and desperate for her approval. How is Lady Maruyama able to possess these traits in a society where women are seen as inferior to men? What gives Lady Maruyama her strength? Eventually Kaede finds out that Lord Otori, to whom she is betrothed, is in love with Lady Maruyama. How does Kaede feel knowing that the man she is to marry loves another woman, whom she herself admires?
     
  • Shigeru makes many personal sacrifices for the good of the Otori. He even forfeits his happiness with Lady Maruyama to marry Kaede and eventually gives his life for the Otori. What does Takeo learn from Shigeru's actions? What does he himself give up?
     
  • What does Jato represent to Takeo? Why is the sword so important and powerful to him?
     
  • Do you think Takeo be able to avenge Shigeru's death in the next book? What trials do you imagine await him in his quest? Do you think he will ever have the power that Shigeru possessed?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 107 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(65)

4 Star

(32)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 107 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 10, 2009

    Vidid Without Being overly Anime

    The swords and special abilities were NOT the dominating elements of the story.
    Characters were fleshed out to the point where i had no lingering questions about them at the end of the tale.
    The story was compelling! I was zipping through the descriptions of places trying to hurry and get to "the good stuff" ha ha ha! Had to slow down a bit because at times i thought i should envision what the author was crafting. Especially in this book we are often in the same shoes as the main character regarding parts of the environment that he cannot see.

    I IMMEDIATELY bought book number 2 (which sadly is not available through B&N as an eBook - ludicrous!).

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An Excellent Series

    The Tales of the Otori series is an outstanding blend of action, drama, forbidden love, and stirring fantasy. To see the gifted Takeo rise to his destiny throughout these stories has been the equivalent of being there alongside him. Lian Hearn masterfully weaves together a story of a hero with exceptional abilities that is attempting to discover his own destiny rather than succumb to those being thrust upon him by Secret societies and Powerful warlords. Within the story is also the forbidden love of the Princess Kaede and Takeo as they both endure so much in their hope of being together. This intriguing story, set in the ancient beauty of the east, has easily won my praise and it will always remain to be one of the greatest series' I've ever read.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An excellent Japanese fantasy for Westerners

    Over the years, the legend "A New York Times notable book" on the cover of any book has guaranteed a small but devoted following. "Across the Nightingale Floor" is the first fantasy of any kind I can remember since the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy that deserves that label, although I don't think the Times had developed such a list in Tolkien's era. <BR/><BR/>In an author's note prefacing this book, Lian Hearn explicitly states that this story is set in "an imaginary country". If it isn't feudal Japan, it's the closest thing possible, and despite the indication in the author's note I prefer to assume that it is Japan. <BR/><BR/>The story reminds me in some ways of the plots and themes of some of Kurosawa's films. The main plot and the various sub-plots are far too involved to go into here. Suffice it to say that this is a book that is well worth your time if you are a lover of fantasy or of things Oriental, and if this is any indication of Hearn's talent I look forward to the next book in the series. <BR/><BR/>There does seem to be a mystery of sorts surrounding the author. I went to the websites mentioned in the book (http://www.theotori.com and http://www.talesoftheotori.com), and what little those sites told about the author has me very intrigued. I'm not even sure whether Hearn is a man or a woman, but I do know that s/he has a great deal of talent. Hopefully this is not the last I will hear about the Otori.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2006

    Not so great

    I was talking with a friend at my dojo about books and he recommended this one. I thought, 'Cool! Samurai, ninja, feudal Japan, I'll love it.' Turns out, I didn't really like it. About half-way through, I stopped caring about the characters, the story, and Hearn's fake Japan. There is so much rich history and potential for storytelling in the real historical Japan, I can only assume that he didn't want to make the effort of researching it. If you want to read about samurai, ninjas, and learn something about Japan (and good writing), then pick up Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka. You won't be able to put it down.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2006

    Really Fun Read

    I just loved reading this book, which I did in a day. It is excellent fantasy. I just wish I came accross series like this more often.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2005

    Amazing!

    Its one of those books that just suck you in. I would reccomend this book to anyone, young or old. I bought book 2 half way through reading Across The Nightingale Floor. This book has everything!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2005

    Fantastic Storytelling

    This book is the perfect beginning to an epic trilogy. Hearn manages to create powerful imagery that revives the strongest elements that the average person knows of fuedal Japan, and puts a unique twist on them. Filled with characters filling the classes of peasants, Samurai, Geisha's and Ninja, there is excitement throughout the entire book. The strongest book in the series, it will not disappoint.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2004

    They way a book should be written

    This book has it all; suspense, action, love, drama, intrigue, deception. I loved this book. I would recommend this to everyone, men and women, young and old. It's not just a chick-flick type book or a summer or beach read. I will let my son read it when he gets a little older, he's 12 now so in a year or two.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2004

    Intrigue, Love, Death, Supernatural Powers

    I picked this book up in the bargain bin as well and bought it because the jacket has a quote that compelled me, 'just as the river is always at the door, so is the world always outside'. This is an excellent book. It is written beautifully but the language isn't too elaborate that it becomes cumbersome or difficult to read. I would recommend this book to both male and female readers. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2003

    Light on the Fantasy part, but an excellent story.

    What a great book! I'm so pleased to have discovered a new Sci-Fi Fantasy author. If you're into the heavy version of the Fantasy genre, this book may not be for you, as there's not a lot of fantasy, but there's enough that it can't be classified as just fiction. I'd say it's rather like a King Arthur novel in that sense. The story is set in feudal Japan, but there's not much historical background in the book. There really doesn't need to be, as the story could have been set in feudal anywhere, but some of the details work best in Japan (such as the Nightingale Floor). Our hero, Takeo, is found living quietly in a remote mountain village. After the villagers are massacred by Lord Iida`s men, Takeo (Tomasu at this point) meets up with Shigeru, Lord of the Otori clan. Takeo goes to live with Shigeru, takes lessons in many subjects (including writing, art and swordplay among other things), learns of his true background and the abilities he has because of his background, and is eventually adopted by Shigeru as his heir. In the meantime, a lovely young woman named Kaede is being held by Lord Noguchi as a hostage. She is being treated badly, even though she is nobility. Noguchi is allied with Lord Iida, the most evil guy around. Eventually, Noguchi decides that Kaede would be most useful as a pawn and she is betrothed to Shigeru. Sadly, Shigeru is in love with Lady Maruyama. It¿s a nice underlying love story to go with the adventure. Takeo, it turns out, is a member of the Tribe. The Tribe has magical abilities that are passed on genetically. Takeo¿s father was of the Tribe. In Takeo, the powers are strong (Does this surprise anyone? If they were weak, we probably wouldn¿t have much of a story¿Luke I am your Father¿but I digress). The Tribe¿s abilities include super hearing, invisibility, and splitting into two, among other things. Everyone in the story seems to feel that all the world¿s problems would be solved if only Lord Iida were dead. Trouble is that he¿s quite powerful and pretty paranoid. He¿s had a Nightingale Floor built in his quarters. The floor has been built to be extra squeaky, so that no one can walk across it without making noise. But, perhaps Takeo, with his magical abilities can take care of this for us¿ All in all, I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the two sequels.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2003

    Excellent idea but....

    Ok first off i am gonna say that i did enjoy this book though it was an excellent plot and good use of characters but i thought the book should of been longer. I would of liked for them to of gone into more detail of his training, the political game that was being played, and even somef the story told from Arai's, Lord Otori's, and Iida's point of view. I guess I just didn't think it was complex enough but that is to to say I didn't enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2012

    This book is amazing!

    This book is the kind of book that you cant put down

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    Wow!

    I couldn't put it down I loved itso much. I definatley recomend this book to anyone that loves great characters, amazing storylines, and characters you wish you could drag from the book and hit yourself!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2012

    Its a Great Series. But.

    I would not pay the 12.99 it took to get it. I paid 13.99 for Inheritance, when it first came out. Which contains nearly 700 pages. This book only contained 227. Not worth the 12.99, that I could have spent something else. Sorry.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Love it

    Just enough romance, action, philosophy,and japanses culture! A must read!!

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A book to fall in love with

    The Nightingale Floor
    A book to fall in love with. Kateo travels to the capital with Shigeru, knowing they could be both going to their deaths. Loyalties, allegiances and loves all change destiny's in this book. Shigeru is murdered and his wife to be believed to be cursed. Shigeru's true love takes her own life and the lives of her children, while Kateo and Kaede are able to finally reveal their depths for each other only to be torn apart again. The characters are beautifully developed and the scenes come alive with each turn of the page. This should be the second book in the series, can't wait to read the rest. A

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    A great Japanese story

    I stumbled across book 5 in the discount section of my local BN and found the story a wonderful blend of fiction wrapped with a factual representation of early Japanese society.

    The book's main characters are credible, dynamic, and engaging. The story has a complex message of honor and righteousness with espionage, intrigue, and sinister planning. I found the ending of this book shocking and very much disappointing as the characters futures (positioned nicely for book 2 which I downloaded already) traveling in directions I myself didn't want them to go.

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  • Posted February 23, 2011

    An Interesting Perspective of an Eastern World

    Across the Nightingale Floor has a strong start, as we see Takeo's world fall to pieces and all that he knew vanish at the swipe of a sword. The actions of Lord Shigeru and the merciless Iida propels Takeo on a journey among rivaling clans. At the same time of these events, readers are also introduced to Kaede. A fifteen year old girl of nobility, that is being held hostage as a pawn in a large political fight over a clan alliance. Through the guiding force of fate, these two eventually cross paths. The end result makes for an interesting novel. The setting is loosely based off of feudal Japan which provides western readers an interesting insight to asian customs and culture. The author (Lian Hearn) spares no expense in her endeavor to create a realistic feel to the novel. Even the names in this novel have asian influences. As a result this book would not be recommended for people that forget or lose track of what name matches up with the character; as there are many similar looking names in the novel. Hearn's presentation of asian culture is refreshing and adds a certain foreign appeal to the novel as a whole. From reading, one can see that attention to detail not only assists the characters in the novel, but can also be applied to their own lives for their benefit. In all Hearn has created a riveting novel which can be added to her collection of four other works such as Grass for His Pillow.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Opening To a Captivating World!

    This book was amazing. It was the second time that I read it and I was still shocked by the plot!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2008

    A reviewer

    This was a great fantasy book that blurs the line separating reality from great fiction in a way that reminded me of martial arts films: very fantastical, very action-oriented. Like most good fantasy and sci fi books it is a coming of age story and the character really develops. It is not historically accurate, but develops some themes I have encountered in other Japanese movies and books in an unusual way. I ordered the first book in the series online and had to order the others after I finished this one--I could barely wait for the others to arrive. I am trying to read the series for the third time but I have recently moved and misplaced this first one!

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