There is, in fact, much to enjoy. Lian Hearn (a pseudonym for Gillian Rubinstein, a British-born Australian who made her reputation with fantasies for younger readers) is a serious student of Japan. She has lived there, immersed herself in its history and culture and reportedly learned its difficult, elliptical language…Her feeling for the place and its past is apparent here, as in all the books, in numerous little touches.
The Washington Post
Set in a brutal and breathtaking feudal Japan, this lyrical and moving prequel to Hearn's Tales of the Otori and also the fifth and final entry in this epic chronicle of ruthless warlords and ill-fated love (after 2006's The Harsh Cry of the Heron), focuses on the early life of Otori Shigeru, the young heir to the Otori clan. Raised in a strictly hierarchical society that reveres loyalty and honor, the adolescent Shigeru witnesses firsthand how treachery and duplicity play an integral role in the deaths of thousands of Otori warriors, the bloody annihilation of his family and, inevitably, his complete and utter degradation. As a dispossessed heir, Shigeru finds strength and retributive inspiration in the teachings of his former mentor, warrior-monk Matsuda Shingen, and in his illicit relationship with the resourceful Lady Maruyama, whose life has also been devastated by the Tohan. Equal parts historical fiction, high fantasy and revelatory Taoist fable, the now complete Tales of the Otori is a saga to be treasured. (July)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Nobody should need to ask who the Otori are by now. Scions of an imaginary, quasi-Japanese feudal clan, they've made a big splash.
The ever-expanding Tales of the Otori series (The Harsh Cry of the Heron, 2006, etc.) gets a prequel, setting the stage for the titanic battles to come. When Hearn's first Otori saga came out five years ago, it was a breath of fresh air. A classic adventure story set in a mythical, medieval Japan, it hewed close to genre requirements without slavishly adhering to them. Later installments, in which the young hero Takeo shook off the religious pacifism of his youth to accept the moral compromises necessary to defeat multiple forces of tyranny, lost some of the first volume's magic, but not all. Completing the circle is Hearn's prequel, which shows the dynastic struggles that took place decades earlier, when evil warlord Iida Sadayoshi was still jostling for power with Otori lord Shigeru. Thrust into the leadership of his clan years before his time, surrounded by other clans with uncertain loyalties, Shigeru must learn not just the ways of the warrior, but also the wisdom of a leader who needs more than military might to survive. Hearn gets back to some of the elements that were so thrilling in the series' earlier entries: Shigeru's interest in how his subjects actually live allows the author to revel in the arcana of her medieval world and give it a rich backdrop. Also nicely developed are the philosophical clashes between the accepted religion, which seems a mild form of state-sponsored Buddhism, and the growing cult of the Christian-like Hidden, whose followers disrupt the status quo by disavowing all forms of violence. Hearn's prose hurtles along, adding a tragic love triangle into the mix and slowing down only somewhat after a particularly woeful turn near the middle. The graceful,understated climax brings the sprawling strands of this epic together in a resoundingly satisfying manner. As impressive an ending as it is a beginning.
The New York Times
"Lian Hearn has created a world I anticipate returning to with pleasure."—New York Times
"The Otori saga gets better with each book."—Booklist
The Washington Post
Her feeling for the place and its past is apparent here, as in all the books. - The Washington Post