Across the Nightingale Floor
by Lian Hearn
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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
School Library Journal
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 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Booklist, August 1, 2002, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.:
This first in the Otori trilogy, set in an ancient Japan, has all the right ingredients-- exotic setting, cruel villains, selfless heroes, magical powers, and star-crossed lovers who will become more important to the fate of their society than they could have ever imagined. Sixteen-year-old Takeo, the only survivor of a raid on his village by the evil Lord Iida, is rescued at the last minute by the kind and charismatic Lord Otori. But was the rescue really the coincidence that it appeared to be? Does Lord Otori have reasons beyond kindness for taking Takeo under his wing? He seems to know quite a lot about the boy, and about the strange abilities that Takeo is just starting to discover in himself--abilities that could help him to play a pivotal role in the fight to wrest power from Iida. Takeo's journey of self-discovery, his first great love, and his transformation from confused boy to brave warrior in a chaotic time will keep readers riveted. The Lord of the Rings phenomenon should pave the way for the success of worthy adventure trilogies (film rights have already been sold for this one), and this tale of love, loyalty, and courage is deserving of comparison to old favorites.
¾: Carrie Bissey.: