Grass for his Pillow

Grass for his Pillow

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Across the Nightingale Floor. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Grass for his Pillow was written by Lian Hearn (pseudonym of author Gillian Rubenstein) and was first published in 2003. It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Across the Nightingale Floor (2002) and forms the second instalment of the Tales of the Otori. It is followed by the final part of the original trilogy – Brilliance of the Moon (2004) – as well as a sequel called The Harsh Cry of the Heron (2006) and a prequel called Heaven’s Net is Wide (2007). The novel carries on exactly where Across the Nightingale Floor ended and so I would strongly advise that you read the novels in order in order to fully appreciate them.

Although Otori Takeo wishes to avenge the death of his adoptive father, he is bound to Tribe by his oath. Swiftly whisked away from the safety of Terayama, he soon realises that they have great plans for him. The Tribe both admire and loathe him for his powerful abilities and lack of discipline. As they force him into a rigorous and brutal training program, Takeo slips further and further into despair. He knows that his life as a nobleman is over and he will never be allowed to see his beloved Kaede again.

Shirakawa Kaede also nurses a broken heart. Now pregnant with Takeo’s child, she has little choice to return to her homeland. She arrives to find that her family lands have been almost destroyed by war and famine and her father is a shell of his former self, maddened by his own cowardice. Although the expectance is that she will marry again quickly, Kaede chooses to turn her back on tradition. As she observes the weakness of the men around her, she swiftly decides to follow a new path. As the heir to both the Shirakawa and Maruyama lands, she chooses to remain unwed and control them herself.

As Takeo and Kaede adapt to life without each other, the land around them begins to turn to chaos. A harsh winter and rise in taxes have left the lower classes unsatisfied and Arai Daiichi still struggles to fill the power vacuum left by Iida’s death. With war inevitable it’s not long before a prophecy rises amongst the Outcastes, stating that Takeo will return to take his rightful place as an Otori Lord and bring peace to the land…

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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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