Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Publisher: Highbridge Company

Date: September 12, 2003

Blurb (Amazon): A tour-de-force novel set in ancient Japan filled with passion, fantasy, and feuding warlords. The first volume in the highly anticipated Tales of the Otori trilogy.

Sixteen-year-old Takeo's village has been massacred by an evil warlord, and he is about to be slain by the men who murdered his parents and neighbors. At the last moment, his life is saved by a nobleman, who claims the boy as his kin and begins his education.

But nothing is as it seems. Takeo discovers that he has rare powers that are useful to those around him. As he grows into manhood, he must decide where his loyalties lie: with his noble master and adoptive father; with the Hidden, a secret, spiritual sect whose beliefs are forbidden; or with the Tribe, the assassins and spies who consider him one of their own.

A story of treachery, political intrigue, and the intensity of first love, set in a world ruled by formal ritual and codes of honor, Across the Nighingale Floor crosses genres, generations, and genders to captivate fans of all ages.

You know what it is like to have a love affair with a book, right? Well, Across the Nightingale Floor is my new love affair. I have been eyeing this book for some time - the title is intriguing and the cover has a sword on it. Why wouldn't you be intrigued by this book?

Lian Hearn created a beautiful and complex world with this first installment in the Tales of the Otori. Set in ancient, feudal Japan, Takeo is orphaned in a night of flame and saved by an enemy of those who set fire to his village. Shigeru Otori takes Takeo with him, giving him his new name, a name that resembles Shigeru's murdered brother. Takeo has given his loyalty freely and completely to Shigeru, who treats him as a son.

But unfinished business from Takeo's past, and even his heritage, will come to haunt him. His mother was of The Hidden, a group of worshipers that are often persecuted for their believes. Takeo learns to hide this part of himself, burying it deep with him. However, without the proper training he cannot hide his blood heritage. Takeo's father, an unknown figure in his life, was of The Tribe, a highly trained, specially skilled group. They are little known, but what is known is of their skills as assassins.

Lady Kaede's predicament is that she as been a useful hostage of a feudal lord. And now she has been ordered to marry an Otori to seal a truce and a compact of loyalty. However, these are not her desires. That coupled with her reputation to being death to any man who acts upon his desire for her, surrounds her with a certain mystique.

I listened to the version, performed by Kevin Gray and Aiko Nakasone. Having two performers for this book really added to the quality. Both had even, easy-to-listen-to voices with expert pronunciation of the Japanese names.

++++: Everybody could be dangerous including the ladies, love is not a weakness, people die eventually, there's a heron.

-: One minor negative point: There is a love scene that I wish the author had given us just a bit more.