Across the Nightingale Floor

Across the Nightingale Floor

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn (nom de plume of Gillian Rubenstein) was first published in 2002. The novel and its two sequels, Grass for his Pillow (2003) and Brilliance of the Moon (2004), were originally written as a single text but were divided into a trilogy prior to publication. Following its popularity on release, a further two books were penned – a sequel called The Harsh Cry of the Heron (2006) and a prequel called Heaven’s Net is Wide (2007). Collectively, the five books are known as Tales of the Otori.

Across the Nightingale Floor is set in a fantasy land styled loosely around feudal Japan and focuses on the struggles two teenagers; Tomasu and Kaede.

Tomasu belongs to a clan known as the Hidden – a peaceful group of people who abhor violence and worship a benevolent entity known as the Hidden God. At the beginning of the novel, Tomasu returns from a walk to find his village ablaze. It becomes apparent that the Hidden have attracted the displeasure of the Feudal Lord, Iida Sadamu, who has ordered them all to be executed.

Fleeing through the forest, Tomasu is rescued by Lord Otori Shigeru who quickly invited him into his home. Renaming him Takeo, Shigeru encourages Tomasu to hide his Hidden roots and embrace a life as Shigeru’s heir. Soon after, Takeo begins to develop strange abilities – including invisibility, super-human hearing and the ability to conjure a doppelganger – and learns that he is actually the descendant of a master assassin from the mysterious Tribe. Seeing an opportunity to finally end Iida’s tyranny, Shigeru quickly calls upon the Tribe to help Takeo master his dark arts.

At the other side of the fiefdom, Shirakawa Kaede faces a very different problem. Following the deaths of two men who are associated with her, it has become rumoured that all who court her will meet a grizzly end. In order to restore honour to her family she is betrothed against her will to Shigeru, whom she has never met. Disgusted and terrified, Kaede begins the long journey to the capital for the wedding. The thought of intimacy with a man is unbearable to her and she desperately tries to find a way out, even if death is her only escape.

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