Category: "Tales of the Otori"

Across the Nightingale Floor - Lian Hearn

July 7th, 2008

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian HearnIn his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills. When Takeo's village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor -- and to his own unimaginable destiny...

A teenage boy named Takeo is chased out of his peaceful village as it is attacked by a local warlord. He escapes pursuit with the help of a strange man, who then takes him in and adopts him as his son. As they get to know each other the man tells Takeo more and more and soon he realizes that their meeting was not random, nor was the attack on his village. Takeo, unbeknownst to him, is from a long line of assassins. They are a race of people with extraordinary abilities, and his father was the best of them all. And now Takeo's fate has come to meet him as he is asked to do that for which he was born to do.

I picked this book up off the shelf having never heard of it, but I read the synopsis on the back and became very interested. I love feudal Japan and the idea of a young man born with specially-heightened senses to facilitate his fate as the world's next great assassin sounded great. And the book was good, I just believe it missed it's mark.

It had everything I described above, but what I didn't like was the disparity between the assassin race and everyone else. I was hoping that the advantages wouldn't be so extraordinary. I afford sci-fi/fantasy authors a lot of creative license, but at some point it goes too far. And I felt like that happened, to an extent, in Across the Nightingale Floor.

But, at least for now, I am not so turned off that I am unwilling to give this series another shot. I do plan to read Grass for His Pillow, which is the second book in the Tales of the Otori series, but I'm not sure when I will get to it.

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