Takeo cannot fathom, cannot imagine in his wildest thoughts that a man could be violent, physically violent to a fellow man. Takeo is one of the Hidden. A reclusive religious group that denounces all forms of violence. They will not harm another sentient being. The irony is that his father, his true father, was an assassin. Not just any assassin, but a member of the Tribe. Silent killers, gifted with spiritual powers. And his father was the most powerful of them all.
One night while out picking mushrooms, Takeo’s little village is attacked. He returns to smoldering wrecks, burning skeletons of buildings that were once home, still aflame. In that moment Takeo’s life changes forever. Bodies lay strewn on the ground; he cannot find his mother and sisters. The triple oak leaf crest identifies the killers as men of Lord Iida’s Tohan clan.
Hearn’s story takes place in a fictional world. A world that is obviously very similar to Japan in the feudal era. A world divided between powerful warrior clans. Much like the persecution of Christians in feudal Japan under the Shogunate, Lord Iida is conducting a pogrom against the Hidden. His plan is to wipe them from the three countries completely. He hates their peaceful life, their one true god, everything they stand for. However, Takeo, with the aid of Lord Shigeru escapes the attack. Shigeru is the rightful heir of the Otori clan, the Tohan’s enemy. His father was killed at a great battle which left the Tohan in power, claiming large swathes of Otori land. Instead of taking his life, the honourable death, he believes it will be more worthwhile to stay alive and devote his life to the pursuit of vengeance and revenge by killing Iida.
Shigeru, knowing that the Tohan will kill Takeo, takes him under his wing adopting him. This adoption has enormous ramifications. Upon Shiguru’s death, Takeo will inherit and become lord of the Otori clan. While Takeo is training and living in Otori lands, his powers start to emerge. The Tribe, who have connections and spies spread throughout the lands like a giant spiderweb recognize his great powers and decide that he will join them or die.
Takeo is not conflicted, his is an easy choice, he owes everything to Shigeru. Even as his powers continue to grow, he has no desire to become a member of the Tribe. However. circumstance will force his hand, force an oath that he is loath to make.
This is the first book in Lian Hearn’s “Tale of the Otori” series that I read years ago. After rereading this first book, for me it has lost little of its charm. It is a short and easy read, well written, with a YA feel to it. If you love the feudal era of Japan, with Samurai, Shoguns, ninjas. A world where honor is more important than life. If you enjoy a beautiful love story, in which that love is threatened, assailed from all sides, you may enjoy this wonderful little series.
It was originally a trilogy, but Hearn added a fourth book and a prequel. There are also two books now in a new series “Children of the Otori”.
One of Australia's most internationally successful writers, Lian Hearn's books have been translated into 42 languages and have sold millions of copies. Nine of her books are set in a mythical country based on medieval Japan: these are the five Tales of the Otori books, starting with Across the Nightingale Floor; The Tale of Shikanoko: Emperor of the Eight Islands and Lord of the Darkwood; and Children of the Otori: Orphan Warriors and Sibling Assassins. She has also written two historical novels set in nineteenth-century Japan, Blossoms and Shadows and The Storyteller and His Three Daughters.
Lian's passionate interest in Japan began when she was a teenager. She received an AsiaLink arts fellowship for travel and research in 1999. She travels frequently to Japan and has studied Japanese for many years. She has always been deeply interested in languages and has a BA and MA in French and Spanish from Oxford University. She worked as an editor and film critic in England and Australia before beginning her career as a novelist in 1986, under the name of Gillian Rubinstein, with the bestselling and award-winning children's novel Space Demons.