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Otori Takeo is kidnapped by the Tribe who intend to continue his training in the art of war and deception. So begins this continuation of the Otori series which vividly depicts medieval Japan, with its continual divisions and alliances promising action and adventure for only the heartiest of warriors. Takeo despises his captors but realizes how important the vigorous training is to claiming his hereditary status as leader of the Otori clan. At first Takeo accepts the taunting jealousy and cruel treatment of those who both distrust and envy his supernatural powers. This part of the book seems to indefinitely drag, but in the second half of the novel Takeo begins to practice his mysterious ability to put another into a deep sleep with one swift gaze and split himself into a visible and invisible body. The boy is now a highly trained and gifted man ready to forge his true destiny.
Hating himself for the deception he is being forced to carry out, Takeo eventually reclaims his noble personality and sets forth to collect a formidable army and reclaim his lost love with Kaede. During this reclamation he hears a profound prophecy from a wise monk, comes to understand his real relationship to the man who adopted him - Lord Shigeru, and realizes part of his followers will include the "untouchable" leather workers.
While Takeo is being trained, his lost lady, Kaede, returns to her family, only to discover it is greatly diminished by death and destruction. She must now rely on others to train her how to act like a man in order to restore her home to its rightful hereditary status as the Shirakawa clan. She quickly learns to bargain her knowledge for the skills and financial support she will need to acquire her domain. A demented father, loyal servant, and mysterious but rich neighbor will unknowingly assist her. All think they command her, but she cleverly uses their attention to attain her lost status.
Putting aside some repetition and lackluster quality in the very beginning of the novel, Hearn manages to swing her characters back into an action-packed plot that carries enough mystery and intricacy to fascinate the reader into the second half of this novel. This reviewer still looks forward to the third book in this remarkable series.
Fascinating, Ms. Hearn!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal