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Across the Nightingale Floor

 

Lian Hearn

Contemporary Fiction: Tales of the Otori (Book One)
August, 2002
Riverhead Books: Penguin Putnam Inc.
ISBN: 1-57322-225-9

"By the time the snow melted, Tomasu, the half-wild boy who roamed the mountain and read only its animals and planets, was gone forever. I had become Takeo, quiet, outwardly gentle, an artist, somewhat bookish, a disguise that hid the ears and eyes that missed nothing, and the heart that was learning the lessons of revenge."

What grand, enticing expression! It's been a long time since this reader has been so excited about a new fiction series. Set in feudal Japan, the novel opens quietly into the world of Tomasu, a member of the secret sect, the Hidden. A page later the fires and murders begin, transforming Tomasu into an orphan who commits an unforgivable offense. About to be captured, Tomasu is saved by Lord Shigeru, the leader of the Otori clan. Shigeru and others see a mysterious likeness in the boy, and Tomasu is adopted as Takeo Shigeru. While he is being taught the necessary martial arts worthy of any nobleman, his adopted father and teachers discover Takeo possesses the mysterious powers of the Tribe, a secret group of warriors.

Takeo quickly becomes part of the plot to revenge the death of his family and Shigeru's brother. While the tale may sound typical, and it certainly is, Hearn (actually a pseudonym for the children's author, Gillian Rubenstein, an Oxford language graduate now living in Australia) deftly draws the reader into an evenly paced story of intrigue and exquisite romance. Bloodthirsty revenge is never glorified but given its rightful place in a society that honors reverence for one's kin and demands payment for murder. Nobility and integrity of character, as well as its despicable opposite, are palpable in the descriptions and actions of every scene.

This is one of the finest tales and should draw global fans. While other reviewers have immediately tried to compare and contrast it to other recently popular fiction, this reviewer believes Across the Nightingale Floor remarkably stands on its own merit as superb fiction that will be loved by young and old readers alike.

Wonderful, Ms. Hearn!

Reviewed by Viviane Crystal

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