Sunday, August 8, 2010

Across The Nightingale Floor - Lian Hearn

Across The Nightingale Floor
Lian Hearn
Riverhead Books
Copyright: 2002

The product description:
One Boy, One Journey, One Dark Destiny In his palace at Inuyama, Lord lida Sadamu, warlord of the Tohan clan, surveys his famous nightingale floor. Its surface sings at the tread of every human foot, and no assassin can cross it. But 16-year-old Otori Takeo, his family murdered by lida's warriors, has the magical skills of the Tribe - preternatural hearing, invisibility, a second self - that enable him to enter the lair of the Tohan. He has love in his heart and death at his fingertips...Across the Nightingale Floor, Book 1 in the Tales of the Otori trilogy, is a stunningly powerful novel. An epic story for readers young and old. Set in a mythical, feudal, Japanese land, a world both beautiful and cruel, the intense love story of two young people takes place against a background of warring clans, secret alliances, high honour and lightning swordplay.
Across The Nightingale Floor is the first book in the Tales of the Otori, a series of novels set in a fantasy world based closely on feudal Japan. It's close enough that as the books continue, I'm finding more and more paralels with the non-fiction I've read. To date the setting, it seems to be somewhere between that of James Clavell's novel Shogun (in some aspects of the story) and other aspects are closer by far to that of David Mitchell's novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Probably Lian Hearn had intended this series to be set in a fantasy time somewhere inbetween the two.

The original recommendation for this series came from one of my What Would You Recommend? posts, but I was reminded about it last week when a friend of a friend also recommended the series to me. That was what sent me to the library last week to get these, and I'm really glad I did. I finished this book the same day I borrowed it and was on to the second one right away: Grass For His Pillow.

Takeo is an interesting character to say the least. Raised in one way of life, only to find himself thrust into a second, and from there, into yet another - both times through events of great personal tragedy. It is also through Takeo that we are introduced to the magics of this world - for it is the magics that really set this series apart from "real" Japan. These are the magics of the Tribe, a secretive, ruthless people who make their livings in any way they can - including assasination.

It's the characters that make the book though. Within pages I found myself connecting to them and wishing that everything would turn out right for once. Some of them are truely the shaping force for the whole series.

Interestingly, there are several editions of these books that are listed as being Teen books, while others are classed as regular fiction. If anything, I'd say fiction or perhaps fantasy categories suit this series the best. There are some things in here that I don't quite think are teen-suitable.

Overall, I really liked Across the Nightingale Floor and its sequels.


Anonymous said...

I've had this series recommended to me a couple of times as well. I will get to them eventally. Sounds like they are worth making time for. I've only seen them in the teen fiction section so far.

Elena said...

Definitely. At least the first three, anyway. To be honest, I've stalled out on book four.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a new follower. If you like books about fuedal Japan pick up The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (and it's a good book regardless).


Elena said...

I've read and reviewed that book earlier this year, but thanks for the suggestion. It was definitely a good one, I have to say.

redhead said...

This is a pretty good series - the plot flows, great characters, I really liked the ending in the first book.

uughh, now I'm going to be tempted to read the whole thing again, and disrupt my TBR pile, again!

Elena said...

I thought so too, redhead. Thanks for the comment.


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