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...
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
My mother used to threaten to tear me into eight pieces if I knocked over the water bucket, or pretended not to hear her calling me to come home as the dusk thickened and the cicadas' shrilling increased. I would hear her voice, rough and fierce, echoing through the lonely valley. "Where's that wretched boy? I'll tear him apart when he gets back."
But when I did get back, muddy from sliding down the hillside, bruised from fighting, once bleeding great spouts of blood from a stone wound to the head (I still have the scar, like a silvered thumbnail), there would be the fire, and the smell of soup, and my mother's arms not tearing me apart but trying to hold me, clean my face, or straighten my hair, while I twisted like a lizard to get away from her. She was strong from endless hard work, and not old: She'd given birth to me before she was seventeen, and when she held me I could see we had the same skin, although in other ways we were not much alike, she having broad, placid features, while mine, I'd been told (for we had no mirrors in the remote mountain village of Mino), were finer, like a hawk's. The wrestling usually ended with her winning, her prize being the hug I could not escape from. And her voice would whisper in my ears the words of blessing of the Hidden, while my stepfather grumbled mildly that she spoiled me, and the little girls, my half-sisters, jumped around us for their share of the hug and the blessing.
So I thought it was a manner of speaking. Mino was a peaceful place, too isolated to be touched by the savage battles of the clans. I had never imagined men and women could actually be torn into eight pieces, their strong, honey-colored limbs wrenched from their sockets and thrown down to the waiting dogs. Raised among the Hidden, with all their gentleness, I did not know men did such things to each other.
I turned fifteen and my mother began to lose our wrestling matches. I grew six inches in a year, and by the time I was sixteen I was taller than my stepfather. He grumbled more often, that I should settle down, stop roaming the mountain like a wild monkey, marry into one of the village families. I did not mind the idea of marriage to one of the girls I'd grown up with, and that summer I worked harder alongside him, ready to take my place among the men of the village. But every now and then I could not resist the lure of the mountain, and at the end of the day I slipped away, through the bamboo grove with its tall, smooth trunks and green slanting light, up the rocky path past the shrine of the mountain god, where the villagers left offerings of millet and oranges, into the forest of birch and cedar, where the cuckoo and the nightingale called enticingly, where I watched foxes and deer and heard the melancholy cry of kites overhead.
That evening I'd been right over the mountain to a place where the best mushrooms grew. I had a cloth full of them, the little white ones like threads, and the dark orange ones like fans. I was thinking how pleased my mother would be, and how the mushrooms would still my stepfather's scolding. I could already taste them on my tongue. As I ran through the bamboo and out into the rice fields where the red autumn lilies were already in flower, I thought I could smell cooking on the wind.
The village dogs were barking, as they often did at the end of the day. The smell grew stronger and turned acrid. I was not frightened, not then, but some premonition made my heart start to beat more quickly. There was a fire ahead of me.
Fires often broke out in the village: Almost everything we owned was made of wood or straw. But I could hear no shouting, no sounds of the buckets being passed from hand to hand, none of the usual cries and curses. The cicadas shrilled as loudly as ever; frogs were calling from the paddies. In the distance thunder echoed round the mountains. The air was heavy and humid.
I was sweating, but the sweat was turning cold on my forehead. I jumped across the ditch of the last terraced field and looked down to where my home had always been. The house was gone.
I went closer. Flames still crept and licked at the blackened beams. There was no sign of my mother or my sisters. I tried to call out, but my tongue had suddenly become too big for my mouth, and the smoke was choking me and making my eyes stream. The whole village was on fire, but where was everyone?
Then the screaming began.
It came from the direction of the shrine, around which most of the houses clustered. It was like the sound of a dog howling in pain, except the dog could speak human words, scream them in agony. I thought I recognized the prayers of the Hidden, and all the hair stood up on my neck and arms. Slipping like a ghost between the burning houses, I went towards the sound.
The village was deserted. I could not imagine where everyone had gone. I told myself they had run away: My mother had taken my sisters to the safety of the forest. I would go and find them just as soon as I had found out who was screaming. But as I stepped out of the alley into the main street I saw two men lying on the ground. A soft evening rain was beginning to fall and they looked surprised, as though they had no idea why they were lying there in the rain. They would never get up again, and it did not matter that their clothes were getting wet.
One of them was my stepfather.
At that moment the world changed for me. A kind of fog rose before my eyes, and when it cleared nothing seemed real. I felt I had crossed over to the other world, the one that lies alongside our own, that we visit in dreams. My stepfather was wearing his best clothes. The indigo cloth was dark with rain and blood. I was sorry they were spoiled: He had been so proud of them.
I stepped past the bodies, through the gates and into the shrine. The rain was cool on my face. The screaming stopped abruptly.
Inside the grounds were men I did not know. They looked as if they were carrying out some ritual for a festival. They had cloths tied round their heads; they had taken off their jackets and their arms gleamed with sweat and rain. They were panting and grunting, grinning with white teeth, as though killing were as hard work as bringing in the rice harvest.
Water trickled from the cistern where you washed your hands and mouth to purify yourself on entering the shrine. Earlier, when the world was normal, someone must have lit incense in the great cauldron. The last of it drifted across the courtyard, masking the bitter smell of blood and death.
The man who had been torn apart lay on the wet stones. I could just make out the features on the severed head. It was Isao, the leader of the Hidden. His mouth was still open, frozen in a last contortion of pain.
The murderers had left their jackets in a neat pile against a pillar. I could see clearly the crest of the triple oak leaf. These were Tohan men, from the clan capital of Inuyama. I remembered a traveler who had passed through the village at the end of the seventh month. He'd stayed the night at our house, and when my mother had prayed before the meal, he had tried to silence her. "Don't you know that the Tohan hate the Hidden and plan to move against us? Lord Iida has vowed to wipe us out," he whispered. My parents had gone to Isao the next day to tell him, but no one had believed them. We were far from the capital, and the power struggles of the clans had never concerned us. In our village the Hidden lived alongside everyone else, looking the same, acting the same, except for our prayers. Why would anyone want to harm us? It seemed unthinkable.
And so it still seemed to me as I stood frozen by the cistern. The water trickled and trickled, and I wanted to take some and wipe the blood from Isao's face and gently close his mouth, but I could not move. I knew at any moment the men from the Tohan clan would turn, and their gaze would fall on me, and they would tear me apart. They would have neither pity nor mercy. They were already polluted by death, having killed a man within the shrine itself.
In the distance I could hear with acute clarity the drumming sound of a galloping horse. As the hoofbeats drew nearer I had the sense of forward memory that comes to you in dreams. I knew who I was going to see, framed between the shrine gates. I had never seen him before in my life, but my mother had held him up to us as a sort of ogre with which to frighten us into obedience: Don't stray on the mountain, don't play by the river, or Iida will get you! I recognized him at once. Iida Sadamu, lord of the Tohan.
The horse reared and whinnied at the smell of blood. Iida sat as still as if he were cast in iron. He was clad from head to foot in black armor, his helmet crowned with antlers. He wore a short black beard beneath his cruel mouth. His eyes were bright, like a man hunting deer.
Those bright eyes met mine. I knew at once two things about him: first, that he was afraid of nothing in heaven or on earth; second, that he loved to kill for the sake of killing. Now that he had seen me, there was no hope.
His sword was in his hand. The only thing that saved me was the horse's reluctance to pass beneath the gate. It reared again, prancing backwards. Iida shouted. The men already inside the shrine turned and saw me, crying out in their rough Tohan accents. I grabbed the last of the incense, hardly noticing as it seared my hand, and ran out through the gates. As the horse shied towards me I thrust the incense against its flank. It reared over me, its huge feet flailing past my cheeks. I heard the hiss of the sword descending through the air. I was aware of the Tohan all around me. It did not seem possible that they could miss me, but I felt as if I had split in two. I saw Iida's sword fall on me, yet I was untouched by it. I lunged at the horse again. It gave a snort of pain and a savage series of bucks. Iida, unbalanced by the sword thrust that had somehow missed its target, fell forward over its neck and slid heavily to the ground.
Horror gripped me, and in its wake panic. I had unhorsed the lord of the Tohan. There would be no limit to the torture and pain to atone for such an act. I should have thrown myself to the ground and demanded death. But I knew I did not want to die. Something stirred in my blood, telling me I would not die before Iida. I would see him dead first.
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. I recognized her at once and learned her lessons instantly. She was what I desired; she would save me from the feeling that I was a living ghost. In that split second I took her into my heart. I kicked out at the man closest to me, getting him between the legs, sank my teeth into a hand that grabbed my wrist, broke away from them, and ran towards the forest.
Three of them came after me. They were bigger than I was and could run faster, but I knew the ground, and darkness was falling. So was the rain, heavier now, making the steep tracks of the mountain slippery and treacherous. Two of the men kept calling out to me, telling me what they would take great pleasure in doing to me, swearing at me in words whose meaning I could only guess, but the third ran silently, and he was the one I was afraid of. The other two might turn back after a while, get back to their maize liquor or whatever foul brew the Tohan got drunk on, and claim to have lost me on the mountain, but this other one would never give up. He would pursue me forever until he had killed me.
As the track steepened near the waterfall the two noisy ones dropped back a bit, but the third quickened his pace as an animal will when it runs uphill. We passed by the shrine; a bird was pecking at the millet and it flew off with a flash of green and white in its wings. The track curved a little round the trunk of a huge cedar, and as I ran with stone legs and sobbing breath past the tree, someone rose out of its shadow and blocked the path in front of me.
I ran straight into him. He grunted as though I had winded him, but he held me immediately. He looked in my face and I saw something flicker in his eyes: surprise, recognition. Whatever it was, it made him grip me more tightly. There was no getting away this time. I heard the Tohan man stop, then the heavy footfalls of the other two coming up behind him.
"Excuse me, sir," said the man I feared, his voice steady. "You have apprehended the criminal we were chasing. Thank you."
The man holding me turned me round to face my pursuers. I wanted to cry out to him, to plead with him, but I knew it was no use. I could feel the soft fabric of his clothes, the smoothness of his hands. He was some sort of lord, no doubt, just like Iida. They were all of the same cut. He would do nothing to help me. I kept silent, thought of the prayers my mother had taught me, thought fleetingly of the bird.
"What has this criminal done?" the lord asked.
The man in front of me had a long face, like a wolf's. "Excuse me," he said again, less politely. "That is no concern of yours. It is purely the business of Iida Sadamu and the Tohan."
"Unnh!" the lord grunted. "Is that so? And who might you be to tell me what is and what is not my concern?"
"Just hand him over!" the wolf man snarled, all politeness gone. As he stepped forward, I knew suddenly that the lord was not going to hand me over. With one neat movement he twisted me behind his back and let go of me. I heard for the second time in my life the hiss of the warrior's sword as it is brought to life. The wolf man drew out a knife. The other two had poles. The lord raised the sword with both hands, sidestepped under one of the poles, lopped off the head of the man holding it, came back at the wolf man, and took off the right arm, still holding the knife.
It happened in a moment, yet took an eternity. It happened in the last of the light, in the rain, but when I close my eyes I can still see every detail.
The headless body fell with a thud and a gush of blood, the head rolling down the slope. The third man dropped his stick and ran backwards, calling for help. The wolf man was on his knees, trying to stanch the blood from the stump at his elbow. He did not groan or speak.
The lord wiped the sword and returned it to its sheath in his belt. "Come on," he said to me.
I stood shaking, unable to move. This man had appeared from nowhere. He had killed in front of my eyes to save my life. I dropped to the ground before him, trying to find the words to thank him.
"Get up," he said. "The rest of them will be after us in a moment."
"I can't leave," I managed to say. "I must find my mother."
"Not now. Now is the time for us to run!" He pulled me to my feet, and began to hurry me up the slope.
"What happened down there?"
"They burned the village and killed..." The memory of my stepfather came back to me and I could not go on.
"Yes," I whispered.
"It's happening all over the province. Iida is stirring up hatred against them everywhere. I suppose you're one of them?"
"Yes." I was shivering. Although it was still late summer and the rain was warm, I had never felt so cold. "But that wasn't only why they were after me. I caused Lord Iida to fall from his horse."
To my amazement the lord began to snort with laughter. "That would have been worth seeing! But it places you doubly in danger. It's an insult he'll have to wipe out. Still, you are under my protection now. I won't let Iida take you from me."
"You saved my life," I said. "It belongs to you from this day on."
For some reason that made him laugh again. "We have a long walk, on empty stomachs and with wet garments. We must be over the range before daybreak, when they will come after us." He strode off at great speed, and I ran after him, willing my legs not to shake, my teeth not to chatter. I didn't even know his name, but I wanted him to be proud of me, never to regret that he had saved my life.
"I am Otori Shigeru," he said as we began the climb to the pass. "Of the Otori clan, from Hagi. But while I'm on the road I don't use that name, so don't you use it either."
Hagi was as distant as the moon to me, and although I had heard of the Otori, I knew nothing about them except that they had been defeated by the Tohan at a great battle ten years earlier on the plain of Yaegahara.
"What's your name, boy?"
"That's a common name among the Hidden. Better get rid of it." He said nothing for a while, and then spoke briefly out of the darkness. "You can be called Takeo."
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.
from Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, Copyright © September 2002, Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
What People are Saying About This
"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
Reading Group Guide
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
This was a very good book. As some of the other reviews I have read said, it is almost like watching the movie Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or any other of those types of movie. The characters were easy to keep up with and the descriptions were beautiful. Furthermore, the author painted a wonderful new world in very few, but beautiful, words. I will leave anything about the ending out because it is not quite what I was expecting, and I do not want to ruin it for anybody. Read and Enjoy!!
Most fantasy I categorize as fluff, but this trilogy is an exception. Lyrical prose, suspenseful plot, multi-dimensional characters, this book has it all. And it really appealed to my feminist heart. There are even a few twists I didn't see coming. I tend to side with the pirates, but this ninja yarn had me from page 1.
In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the murderous warlord, lida 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. Brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people, Takeo has learned only the ways of peace. Why, then, does he possess the deadly skills that make him so valuable to the sinister Tribe?The Tale of the Otori starts with a bang as Takeo is taken from his simple peaceful life and trained in the ways of the Tribe, all the way seeking his revenge on Sadamu. The story, told in a mythical Japan that never was focues on the magical, otherworldliness of the ninja and samurai warriors without ever calling them as such. Before Ninjas were as popular as pirates, Hearn was writing his historical fantasy. As stark and emotional taught as Japanese folklore itself, the action will carry you straight through to the novel's sequel and every novel thereafter. It is a a bit stylized, relying heavily on the American perspective of a revenge oriented, high flying power hungry civilization filled with the slithering darkness and smooth sword skills of the Japanese, but it's also a fantasy, so the criticism is balance in the novel's own detachment from reality.At its core though, this book does everything it sets out to do. It tells the epic tale of revenge and love so instilled and part of the culture and literature of the age and turns it into an incredibly engaging adventure. Highly recommended.
Across the Nightingale Floor is written in lyrical prose about an imaginary realm that is like mystical, feudal Japan. 16-year-old Takeo is a young man who belongs to an unpopular religious sect. He finds his village in flames and is saved from death by Lord Otori Shigeru. He becomes Shigeru's protege and falls in love with the stunningly beautiful Lady Kaede Shirakawa who is promised to another man. He also discovers that he is a member of a group of assassins with magical powers called the Tribe. As he grows, he discovers the ability to create a double of himself and become invisible.The novel works well for a wide range of readers -- those who like historical fiction, fantasy, thrillers, martial arts, Asian focused works, and those who appreciate lyrical prose.
I like Japan probably quite a bit more than the next person, and so I tend to be very wary about books that purport to get Japan without really being Japan, or even that try to get Japan at all in novel form. Capturing the feel of it is pretty difficult, I think, even if getting the trappings isn't so hard.What a nice surprise it was, then, when this book really did feel about right for the older, pseudo-Japan setting that it was aiming for. Sure, geographically, it's not Japan, even if the place names are (Yamagata is very important here), but it's definitely meant to be that way; even the idea came to her when she was living in rural Japan. But the writing is spare, and the characters' thought patterns seem to work. Even the dialogue comes across about right.The plot's pretty interesting, as well; a teenage boy taken in after his village is destroyed by a powerful lord, and is trained to become his successor and help solve some political problems the lord is having. There are a lot of machinations, and they're not always telegraphed, which is nice. Further, the other main character, a woman who's been a political hostage since age 7 and is now 15 and coming into her own as a potential power, is asked to go off and marry the lord to secure an alliance. The story is told from alternating perspectives, and the characters are fairly well realized, even if I don't really feel much of a change in style between the two (the boy's is first person, the girl's isn't).Anyway, the plot works pretty well, with a good amount of action and such on top of some romance and some political conniving. I enjoyed it enough to go straight into the second one, so you know there's got to be something there.
I listened to an audible version of this novel. I'm not sure I would have picked up the book to read in print--so many others to read. I have an Audible.com subscription and purchase 2 books/month. This has good ratings, so I got it. I'm really glad I did--I was transported to a magical time in the past. Can't wait to "read"(listen to) the rest of the trilogy.
Interesting fantastical-realism story about feudal Japan. Have to suspend belief a lot, but insight on Japanese feudal culture in very interesting.
I so wanted to like this series a lot after reading this book. Unfortunately, all I can say is that it's OK. And then, I can only say that as far as Book 3, as I haven't gone on with it.This wasn't a bad start to the series. I enjoyed the feudal-Japan-in-all-but-name setting; I found the characters both well-limned and sympathetic; there was the potential for a great plot arc reminiscent, perhaps, of Sh¿gun. I did feel that the political situation was a little muddled¿I think the book would have benefited from a prologue to decribe the general situation or, at least, a bit more explanation of how/what/when/where/why, but this didn't detract unduly.When the second installment, Grass for His Pillow came out, I was pleased with it. As explanations came forth, I found myself immersed more and more in the plot. I liked the direction the story was going. The singular skills/magic of The Tribe seemed a trifle out of place in a world where there was no other hint of the extra-normal, but it wasn't particularly jarring. A good second book, superior to the first.The third installment, Brilliance of the Moon, brought it all tumbling down for me. The characters were no longer the same people from the first two books. They had gone from sympathetic to people I just wanted to tell, "Shut up!" The pacing of the plot fell apart, losing the previous even flow in a rush toward and ending. And the ending!...the word 'coincidences' nowhere near conveys things; we must use deus ex machina.The afterword indicates that the trilogy may become a quartology. If I find the fourth in a used paperback and I'm out of reading material, I may finish it. Otherwise, no.
This is a perfectly magical book. Sparsely told, the action unfolds quickly, with a style that is engaging and witty. I look forward to reading the next in the series. I confess that I had rolled my eyes a bit, figuring it would be fairly formulaic, but Hern creates characters that are wonderful, passionate, and of course at times doomed. A lovely example of the genre, and a fine work. On loan from (and returned to) Ethan.
I think my ratings of young adult fiction tend to be skewed to the low side. I think this book is more suitable for those 16+ given the violent and sexual content.
This is the first book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn. Originally I believe this was supposed to be a trilogy; with the addition of the Last Tale of the Otori and the First Tale of the Otori there are now 5 books that deal with the subject matter presented in this book.This book tells the story of Takeo and Kaede. Takeo is a orphaned son of a tribe of the Hidden. After the decimation of his tribe he is found and taken into custody by the Lord of the Otori. Kaede is a young girl who has been held as a hostage at a lord's estate for many years as assurance for her father's cooperation. Their stories start out separately and are expertly woven in and out of each other throughout the book.This is the second time I have read this book. The book is full of beautiful descriptions and the action scenes are fun to read. The world of the Otori is complex and dangerous, as well as full of intrigue.While this is a well-written book I found that at times it got a little slow to read. At the end of the book there are many plotlines left unresolved. I remember being irritated with that the first time I read this book. The second time through I am just glad that I have the other books in the series on hand.Overall this is a good book, well-written, and interesting. I am not sure how accurate it is to Japanese culture and history but some effort appears to have been made to make that as accurate as possible. I look forward to reading the second book.
Set in a remarkably envisioned feudal Japan, it would be easy to mistake this book for historic fiction. Across the Nightingale Floor has opened my eyes to a new subgenre: historical fantasy. Nightingale fits this subgenre only in its superb rendering of a place in time. Takeo is the hero, orphaned, then rescued by the good man, Lord Otori Shigeru. Three nations exist on this fantasy island off Japan, and the evil Lord Iida wants it all. It is he who is responsible for killing Takeo's family, because one of his goals for domination includes killing all members of the religious sect, The Hidden, a group with parallels to Christianity. Lord Iida also wants to control the three major nations, and schemes to do so through a marriage agreement that draws Takeo, Shigeru and Kenji into battles and suffering. Takeo faces many coming-of-age dilemmas including falling in love with Kaede, the betrothed woman (girl) of Lord Iida's plan.It turns out that Takeo is also a member of another secret group, The Tribe. He is endowed with super-human powers that must be developed, and which become critical for the battles between good and evil. Typical of Joseph Campbell's definition of a hero cycle, Nightingale is a monomyth, the type of story I love: unlikely hero is born of seemingly ordinary roots, has supernatural capacity, battles evil, and brings goodness to ordinary people. Hearn has given birth to a likable hero. I look forward to reading more.
I did not love the first installment of the Tales of the Otori trilogy as much as I expected to. The characterization really shines in the other books of the series, but I felt it faltered here. The story focuses on Lord Otori Shigeru's attempt to use his adopted son Takeo to get vengeance on his long-time enemy, the cruel and oppressive Lord Iida Sadamu. But, although Takeo has reasons of his own for wanting to kill Sadamu, I was never quite comfortable with a plot centered around manipulating a teenage boy into becoming an assassin. It seemed particularly at odds with Lord Otori's previously established reputation for honor and justice. Moreover, the other characters seemed a bit wooden, moving more in response to the demands of the plot than their own human motivations. The plot was entertaining enough to propel me through the book quickly, but I never got as emotionally involved as I did with the other novels in the series.
I really enjoyed this book. Lian Hearn blends an amazing tale with japanese historical points so well you would almost believe it wasnt a work of fiction. A must read for anyone who enjoys reading.
Good Japanese flavored fantasy. Compelling characters.
Takes place in a fantasy world based on Japan during the time of the Samurai. It follows our Hero from humble boy to powerful Lord. Fantasy, but contains a spare amount of what I would call typical magic. It is mainly about the constant struggle for land and power and dominance between these powerful lords. So there are battles, beheadings and everything else you would expect