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"...in me three bloods mingled. I was born into the Hidden but my life was no longer my own, that I was destined to rule in peace from sea to sea, when earth delivered what heaven denied...five battles would bring me peace, four to win and one to lose, but I did not tell her what the saint had predicted about my own son: that I would die at his hands."
So begins the complex plot of warring clans vying for a power second only to Japan's emperor in ancient times. The Hidden are now fully involved in the battles, playing a secondary but vital role since their Christian beliefs forbid murder or suicide. The Tribe, also trying to destroy Takeo Otori, adopted son of Lord Shigeru (that story is told in Across the Nightingale Floor and Grass For His Pillow), use sorcery capable of secretly destroying an enemy but fail as Takeo has greater skill with these same magical powers.
Marrying Shirakawa Kaede, Takeo has acquired more enemies, Arai Daichi and Lord Fujiwara, who must either be placated or killed. The depth of Takeo and Kaede's romance hearkens the reader to that even more ancient Japanese love story described in The Tale(s) of Genji. In sequential but impressively significant steps, Takeo Otori heroically meets each obstacle to his ultimate goal, rule of The Three Countries, an area covering the majority of Japan.
Although Takeo seeks traditional power, he challenges tradition by repaying those who have saved his life with positions as his warriors and aides. Those receiving such favors include farmers and lower caste tanners (The Hidden). So caring is his reasoning and behavior that the reader winds up immersed in the plot, wishing that every step Takeo takes will yield only success.
Exciting, passionate, reflective, horrid, and beautiful are just a few words that capture the essence of this well-written third novel in the Tales of the Otori series.
Delightful! - Again, L. Hearn!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal