The Barnes & Noble Review
Reading like a cross between Frank Herbert's Dune and the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this intrigue-soaked, magic-realist tale is likely to appeal to readers who enjoy experiencing an original world unfold with each new chapter. Those who have read and reread Tolkien will blissfully turn these pages and find themselves missing appointments.
Set in a long-ago world resembling medieval Japan, where warring clans brutally battle it out while the nobility plots political marriages, the action starts almost immediately. Bodies are piling up by the third page, as teenage Takeo witnesses a massacre in his previously peaceful village. He seems to be writing his own ticket to the grave when he knocks an evil warlord from his horse. The boy is saved, though, by Lord Otori, who introduces Takeo to his clan -- hence the subtitle, Tales of the Otori.
Across the Nightingale Floor seems straightforward enough at first, but in Hearn's world, there are plots within plots, schemes within schemes, and skillfully interwoven elements of fantasy. The author does some neat narrative juggling by alternating chapters between Takeo's first-person odyssey and the you-go-girl, third-person story of the Cinderella-like Kaede. Romance is neatly combined with adventure, and it seems likely that any reader arriving at the close of this story will readily pick up the next volume in the series. Lou Harry
It has a magical quality and the power of the story is truly awesome.
Mystical powers and martial arts rampage through this pseudo-Japanese story, the first of a projected trilogy by newcomer Hearn, with an abandon that's head spinning. From the entrance of the 16-year-old hero, Takeo, as he is about to be swatted down by a mounted horseman and the way he can become invisible or make a duplicate of himself when he needs to, to the head-rolling decapitations that follow interminably, the impossible becomes the semiplausible. Takeo, who joins the Otori clan, is a religious outcast, and also, surprisingly, a member of "the Tribe," a secretive race that has unusual mental and physical powers that lend them an unworldly air. Takeo learns how to control his burgeoning talents just in time to avenge the death of his mentor, while politics and clan rivalries lead to an increasing amount of graphic bloodshed. Takeo enjoys a few blissful moments with the fetching Lady Kaede Shirakawa but, unfortunately, she is not destined to be his, now or in the future. For fans of Japanese samurai warrior fantasy, this novel is right in the ballpark, filled with swords, clan in-fighting, love affairs, invisibility and magical Ninja powers. However, for those looking for something with a bit of depth, the author tends to gloss over the details of why and how. Takeo learns the craft of the Tribe offstage and all the political maneuvering that goes into the clan warfare is rather murky. Hopefully, the next book will show what Hearn is really capable of. (Sept. 2) Forecast: With movie rights sold to Universal Studios and foreign rights sold in 11 countries, this one seems a sure bet for genre bestseller lists. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Set in a mystical fantasy world similar to Medieval Japan, Hearn's story of murder and clan intrigue opens the Tales of the Otori. Sixteen-year-old Takeo, brought up in a remote mountain village of the Hidden, a persecuted religious sect, is rescued by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru when the evil warlord Iida Sadamu destroys Takeo's village. It is not by happenstance that Shigeru is near Takeo's village. He knows who Takeo's father was and the fighting skills the boy would have inherited genetically. Unbeknownst to Takeo, he is by birth a member of the Tribe, a group of assassins with magical powers, such as the ability to appear in two places at the same time and the power of invisibility. Shigeru adopts the orphaned Takeo, and Kenji, a member of the Tribe sent to keep an eye on the boy, begins training Takeo to master the skills necessary to assassinate Iida, Lord Shigeru's nemesis. Add Lady Maruyama, Shigeru's secret love, and her cousin, fifteen-year-old Kaede, Shigeru's arranged bride-to-be, who is actually in love with Takeo, and the result is intrigue thickened with the bittersweet longings of star-crossed lovers. Both Shigeru and Lady Maruyama die, forcing Takeo to accept his birthplace in the secret society of assassins. This artfully woven fantasy filled with well-defined characters will intrigue older teen fantasy readers as well as those interested in the martial arts. Readers will impatiently wait for the publication of the next two titles in the series to vicariously join Takeo as a Tribe member. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2002,Riverhead Books/Penguin, 287p,
This first book gives the series both a promising start and a satisfyingly complete first episode. The story of teens Takeo and Kaede unfolds in an imaginary world inspired by medieval Japan and medieval China. Takeo's ancestry is connected to a sect known as "the Hidden," but he loses his family in a horrific invasion. Soon thereafter, he is able to defend himself and wreak a degree of vengeance as he severs the heads and arms of two of the marauders. That act will bring his own execution, of course, if he is caught, but fortunately a young lord, Otori Shigeru, saves him. Meanwhile, Kaede's childhood ends when her body matures and men in her household make a play for her sexually. The first two such incidents happen to end in death for the men, giving Kaede a reputation that makes it difficult for her lord to find her a willing suitor. She and Takeo meet when she becomes engaged to Shigeru, a political arrangement intended to unite tribes against a common enemy. Takeo is perceptive in the extreme, able to hear the most muffled voices distinctly, and to cross silently a floor built expressly to "sing" and thereby give warning of any approach. Shigeru plans to use these skills of his newly adopted son to ward off their enemies. A balance of intrigue, romance, and daily life's cultural idiosyncrasies keep this fantasy moving quickly and compellingly. Readers of historical fiction will find this an easy bridge to fantasy, and vice versa. (Tales of the Otori, Book One).. KLIATT Codes: JSA;Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Penguin Putnam, Riverhead, 305p.,
Born as one of the Hidden, a pacifistic group opposed to any sort of violence, Takeo meets brutality head-on when a local warlord destroys his villages and murders his family. Rescued by a rival warlord, Takeo becomes the adopted son of Lord Shigeru and learns of his true heritage as one of the Tribe, a clan of assassins with supernatural powers. When his adopted father becomes the victim of treachery, Takeo faces a choice between loyalty to his past and to his new and perilous future. This first novel, a series opener, brings a fantasy Japan to vivid life with a minimum of frills. A good addition to most fantasy collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/02.] Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-Fleeing the slaughter of his village and pursued by Lord Iidu's warriors, Tomasu, 16, expects to die. Raised among the Hidden, he is forbidden to kill and is expected to forgive his enemies, tenets he sets aside in favor of revenge. When Otori Shigeru steps into his path, Tomasu thinks the worst; instead Shigeru kills one pursuer and seriously wounds another. Given the name Takeo by Shigeru, the grieving teen gives up speaking for a time and finds that his hearing becomes preternaturally sharp. Other strange abilities manifest themselves as well, marking him as a member of the Tribe, five families resembling ninjas. Shigeru also desires revenge upon Iidu for the loss of much of the Otori ancestral lands and the death of his younger brother. Takeo allies himself with Shigeru and accepts formal adoption. Meanwhile, Lady Shirakawa Kaede, tarnished with a reputation for bringing death to men, is contracted to marry Shigeru. These story lines converge just as Takeo's life begins to fly apart. His situation is complicated, and his unique talents and background mark him as a hero of epic proportions. Although much about this tale seems to place it in feudal Japan, Hearn states that this is an imaginary country. In this riveting first entry in a trilogy, all major characters are introduced and the various conflicts defined, but readers will have to wait for future volumes to reach the final resolution. This book should be popular with many readers, not just those who admire well-written and intriguing fantasy.-Jody Sharp, Harford County Public Library, MD Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Mythical medieval Japan never seemed so attractive as in this breezy epic, the first in a trilogy, about a boy with strange powers who gets caught up in a long-simmering inter-clan conflict. The village is doomed, but British-born newcomer Hearn still makes you care about it and its inhabitants. In a preface, he admits using "echoes of Japanese customs and traditions" as he sets his action in a resolutely imaginary country where warring clans battle for supremacy. The village in question is in Dairyo country, ruled by Iida Sadamu, a devil in warrior's garb, and many of the villagers belong to a secretive, Christian-like cult called The Hidden, which has aroused Iida's wrath with its subversive talk of kindness. When Iida shows up to destroy the village, 16-year-old Takeo is wandering in the hills, though even then he would have been killed by Iida's soldiers if it hadn't been for the fortunate appearance of Shigeru, a lord of the Dairyo's rival clan, the Otori, who was doing some wandering of his own and demonstrated his handy way with a sword. Shigeru spirits the traumatized boy back to Otori lands and adopts him after noting a strong resemblance between Takeo and his own late brother. It's also revealed that Takeo is a member of an ancient clan of pseudo-magical beings with sorcerous ninja-like powers-useful during an assassination attempt on Shigeru. A secondary storyline follows 15-year-old Kaeda, who, since childhood, has been held hostage by an overlord who wants to keep her father, a less powerful lord, in check. Once a marriage is arranged for her to help cement a political alliance, her path and Takeo's wind closer and closer together in a complex plot that Hearn carries usthrough with the greatest of ease. What could have been a Shogun-like exercise in bloat becomes a rousingly muscular piece of romantic adventure, replete with shadowy assassins, fluttering battle flags, and doomed love. Film rights to Universal
"Satisfyingly rich in incident yet admirably spare in the telling...Hearn has created a world I anticipate returning to with pleasure."The 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 yearspart Shogun, part Lord of the Flies and entirely enchanting."Milwaukee Journal Sentinel