The extraordinary adventure continues in the second book of the internationally heralded trilogy, Tales of the Otori. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, one of Book magazine's best novels of the year, and one of School Library Journal's Best Adult Books for High School Readers (2002), Across the Nightingale Floor was an international bestseller and critical success, named "the most compelling novel to have been published this year" by the Times (London). In this second tale, we return to the land of harsh beauty and deceptive appearances where we first met Takeo the young orphan taken up by the Otori Lord and now a closely held member of the Tribe and his beloved Shirakawa Kaede, heir to the Maruyama and alone in the world, who must find a way to unify the domain she has inherited. In a complex social hierarchy, amid dissembling clans and fractured allegiances, there is no place for passionate young love. Yet Takeo and Kaede, drawing on their unusual talents and hidden strengths, must make their way in this tale of longing, ambition, and intrigue.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
The pseudonymous Hearn's second thrilling installment of her Tales of the Otori trilogy (after 2002's Across the Nightingale Floor) is once again set in a magic-haunted version of medieval Japan where no one wields unchallenged authority and no one is safe. The swirl of treacherous, shifting clan alliances threatens to overwhelm young lovers and aristocrats Takeo and Kaede. Separated throughout most of the action, the two must develop their talents while trying to maintain their integrity. Takeo possesses superhuman gifts such as the ability to become invisible, project a double image of himself and hear distant conversations; however, he must discipline his skills and control his impetuous temper. He also must work out his relationship with the Tribe, a treacherous secret organization of spies and assassins that saved his life but that may have murdered his father. Kaede, meanwhile, has to escape the powerless role of a woman if she is to protect herself and her family domain from predatory neighbors. Adept at creating vivid natural settings where the supernatural feels unusually plausible, Hearn catches fresh details of trees, birds, rivers and mountains. With quick, direct sentences like brushstrokes on a Japanese scroll, she suggests vast and mysterious landscapes full of both menace and wonder. Hearn shows that middle novels of trilogies don't have to simply fill space between an exciting opening and conclusion. (Aug. 11) Forecast: Hyped as the next J.K. Rowling, Hearn-in fact, Australian children's book author Gillian Rubinstein, who was born in England-disclosed her identity last year but has since kept a low profile. Her anonymity hasn't hurt, with rights to the trilogy sold to 20 countries and movie rights to Universal for an estimated $3.6 million. Don't expect the books to vie for the top of national bestseller charts, though, until the movie release. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 09, 2003
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Excerpt from Grass for His Pillow by Lian Hearn
Shirakawa Kaede lay deeply asleep in the state close to unconsciousness that the Kikuta can deliver with their gaze. The night passed, the stars paled as dawn came, the sounds of the temple rose and fell around her, but she did not stir. She did not hear her companion, Shizuka, call anxiously to her from time to time, trying to wake her. She did not feel Shizuka's hand on her forehead. She did not hear Lord Arai Daiichi's men as they came with increasing impatience to the veranda, telling Shizuka that the warlord was waiting to speak to Lady Shirakawa. Her breathing was peaceful and calm, her features as still as a mask's.
Toward evening the quality of her sleep seemed to change. Her eyelids flickered and her lips appeared to smile. Her fingers, which had been curled gently against her palms, spread.
Be patient. He will come for you.
Kaede was dreaming that she had been turned to ice. The words echoed lucidly in her head. There was no fear in the dream, just the feeling of being held by something cool and white in a world that was silent, frozen, and enchanted.
Her eyes opened.
It was still light. The shadows told her it was evening. A wind bell rang softly, once, and then the air was still. The day she had no recollection of must have been a warm one. Her skin was damp beneath her hair. Birds were chattering from the eaves, and she could hear the clip of the swallows' beaks as they caught the last insects of the day. Soon they would fly south. It was already autumn.
The sound of the birds reminded her of the painting Takeo had given her, many weeks before, at this same place, a sketch of a wild forest bird that had made her think of freedom; it had been lost along with everything else she possessed, her wedding robes, all her other clothes, when the castle at Inuyama burned. She possessed nothing. Shizuka had found some old robes for her at the house they had stayed in, and had borrowed combs and other things. She had never been in such a place before, a merchant's house, smelling of fermenting soy, full of people, whom she tried to keep away from, though every now and then the maids came to peep at her through the screens.
She was afraid everyone would see what had happened to her on the night the castle fell. She had killed a man, she had lain with another, she had fought alongside him, wielding the dead man's sword. She could not believe she had done these things. Sometimes she thought she was bewitched, as people said. They said of her that any man who desired her died -- and it was true. Men had died. But not Takeo.