Book Review: Across the Nightingale Floor (Lian Hearn)
Series: Tales of the Otori
Release Date: April 2nd 2002
Takeo is the only survivor when a brutal massacre wipes out his village. That day he cheats death, but his life will never be his own again.
Rescued, then adopted, by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru, Takeo starts a new life as heir to the Otori clan. But a sinister organisation called The Tribe claims him as their own and has dark plans for his future. For Takeo has incredible magical powers – he can make himself invisible, he can be in two places at once, he hears what other people cannot. These skills make him the perfect assassin – a deadly weapon for The Tribe.
But before Takeo will pledge his life to them he must make a dangerous journey of revenge. There is no place for the passion of first love – but when Takeo meets the beautiful, forbidden Kaede, he knows that he can never give her up…
Tales of the Otori is definitely up there with my top YA trilogies (which is saying a lot as I love trilogies).
This first book plunges you deep into the world of tribal Japan (although not mentioned by name, all the clues are there) and tells a story of love, honour and revenge.
Re-reading it as an adult, I’ll admit I struggled a little with the main love story between Takeo and Kaede: it’s your classic Romeo and Juliet scenario, which I don’t usually go in for. Love at first sight just doesn’t do it for me and the love between the secondary characters of Shigeru and Naomi is much stronger.
While the love story may feel a little rushed and underdeveloped, the protagonists themselves really drive the story, despite the fact that they are both pawns in other people’s plots. While events may not unfold because of their actions, it is entertaining enough to see how they react and survive in the game they’ve been forced into.
I’m no expert on Japan or its history and culture and found the references to the landscape, tea ceremonies and religion enough to satisfy me, but someone with a bit more knowledge on the subject may find it a bit sparse and the allusions irritating: we know the Tribe are the book’s ninjas and the Hidden are the Christians, but it’ll never been mentioned by name. I’m happy to be hinted at but others may not be.
While the protagonists and their companions are compelling, the villains of the story are weaker. Iida plays little part in the story, aside from his introduction in the beginning and the climax at the end. His actions against the Hidden show his cruel nature but he’s too much of a distant villain, sitting in his castle and waiting for the action to come to him.
But to come back to my original point, this is a really engaging read, you’ll fall in love with the characters (even if you don’t quite fall in love with their love story) and you’ll definitely want to read the sequels and find out what happens next.
Check out Grass for His Pillow, the next in the series.