Across the Nightingale Floor
Author: Lian Hearn
Paperback: 287 pages
Publication Date: 2002
FTC: borrowed from a co-worker
I have to say that while working at a cafe in a bookstore isn't my dream job (unless I owned the cafe and bookstore), I do enjoy finding out about new-to-me books from browsing, seeing what people buy, and talking to co-workers. This is one of those books. I noticed a co-worker reading Heaven's Net is Wide, a prequel to the Tales of Otori series. We got to talking and she lent me the three books in the series. So I delved right in.
LOVED it. Have you heard of this series?? How have I missed it? Apparently people have because it's a New York Times notable book, one of Book Magazine's Best Novels of the Year, and one of the School Library Journal's Best Adult Books for High School Readers. I got all that from the back of the book.
Setting: Feudal Japan (exact time/era unknown) in a fictional region
The story starts out with a country boy, Tomasu, who lives in a remote mountain village called Mino. He is of The Hidden, a people who are devoutly religious and peaceful but have to hide from main society. Within the first few pages, Mino is invaded, burned and destroyed by a warlord named Lord Iida. Tomasu is playing out in the woods when this happens and is thus saved from being killed and while being chased by Lord Iida's men, is further saved by Otori Shigeru, who happens to be in the region. He becomes Tomasu's protector and renames him Takeo. From then on he is Lord Shigeru's heir.
Takeo's is not only the remaining Mino survivor but he is found to have special skills. He learns that his father was a famed assassin with extremely rare skills and comes from a hidden sect called The Tribe. Takeo and Shigeru strive to destroy Lord Iida and seek revenge.
There are also a couple of love interests as side notes. Most of the story is told from Takeo's perspective, but we also hear from his love interest, Shirakawa Kaede. Honestly, I'm not sure who I enjoyed more narrating, Takeo or Shirakawa but the combination of perspectives is perfect.
If you've ever watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or movies like that, you'll understand what I mean. Those movies have a beautiful combination of music and cinematography that is moving. I felt that when reading this book. Just beautifully written. While it is not a YA book, I felt that it would be a good fit for a YA reader, boy or girl, since the book has the two different gender perspectives. And there are so many great themes in this book that makes it addicting: a young orphan dealing with his special powers and gifts, revenge (I love a good revenge story), love (the hopeless romeo/juliet kind), and loyalty (he was born religious with The Hidden, is beholden to Shigeru as his heir, and beholden to The Tribe by birth).
The only thing that was difficult with this book is the all the Japanese names. Fortunately there is a good map at the beginning of the book along with a list of Characters just in case you get confused or lost. I was surprise how little I used the character glossary.
This book is listed in the Fantasy section of the bookstore and while I can understand why, don't let that dissuade you from reading it. Takeo's gifts are what make it fantasy BUT other than that, it is just a wonderful tale. I just picked up the second book and am fifty pages or so into it and am sucked in.
Have you read this book?? Yay! Some of you have.
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