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Tales of the Otori #1

Across the Nightingale Floor

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In 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 spiritual 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...

305 pages, Paperback

First published August 26, 2002

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About the author

Lian Hearn

68 books1,708 followers
Lian Hearn's beloved Tales of the Otori series, set in an imagined feudal Japan, has sold more than four million copies worldwide and has been translated into nearly forty languages. It is comprised of five volumes: ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR, GRASS FOR HIS PILLOW, BRILLIANCE OF THE MOON, THE HARSH CRY OF THE HERON and HEAVEN'S NET IS WIDE. The series was followed by two standalone novels, BLOSSOMS AND SHADOWS and THE STORYTELLER AND HIS THREE DAUGHTERS, also set in Japan.

Hearn's forthcoming series: The Tale of Shikanoko will be published by FSG in 4 volumes in 2016. Book 1 will be EMPEROR OF EIGHT ISLANDS out in late-April 2016, followed by book 2: AUTUMN PRINCESS, DRAGON CHILD (June), book 3: LORD OF THE DARKWOOD (August), and the final book (#4) THE TENGU'S GAME OF GO (late-Sept. 2016).

Lian has made many trips to Japan and has studied Japanese. She read Modern Languages at Oxford and worked as an editor and film critic in England before immigrating to Australia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,424 reviews
Profile Image for Nicholas Armstrong.
264 reviews48 followers
November 6, 2012
Okay. I'll try to be as kind and heartfelt as possible. This book is insultingly bad. Normally a bad book is just that, but this book is actually infuriatingly bad.

Firstly, it's a fantasy book set in feudal Japan. That's fine. I would think that it being set in Japan, Hearn would have learned anything about the place, but she apparently did not. This book is written as if Hearn simply googled Japan and then decided to write a book on it. I'll go down the list of failings.

Religion Japan wasn't Christian. It persecuted Christianity in the same way that Rome did; it's teachings undermined the ruling order. But in Hearn's world everyone is predominantly Christian, or at least they worship a god an awful lot like the Christian god; like looking down on suicide, which was a part of the way of life in Japan. So, okay, Hearn didn't do that justice; base a book of a land and F up their religion, okay. But this is the least of her offenses.

Language Other novels written about or in Japan (Shogun, to name one) have tried to successfully capture the way people spoke; saying one thing and meaning another. Hearn tries to do this... I think. It's hard to tell because it is so blunt but she implies that they are saying something else. I guess. Either way the dialogue is awful. There is a two-page dialogue about a characters past that is painfully bad. It isn't emotional, even the character seems to know this, and it isn't realistic. The conversations are flat and would fail if they were imitating normal conversation, in that they should be trying for feudal speech they fail astoundingly.

Terrain/Geography/History This is pretty hard to F up but Hearn does it anyway. She apparently read somewhere that Japan gets a lot of earthquakes, so the characters experience them, constantly. This would be informative of the climate and area, but it isn't - it's irritating. All it does is randomly distract from the story. The characters are talking about something and then the author stops to make everything shake, then everyone has to acknowledge the quake, then we resume. Maybe that's real, but it's also retarded. Include the quakes in exposition, don't stop the story to put them in. Realism only goes so far in books. If we had to read every time a character took a piss it wouldn't be interesting either. Now there is the infamous battle of Yaegahara from her book... which is clearly just a ripoff of the real battle of Sekigahara. The infuriating thing is that she uses the feuds, anger, and tension that came from the battle of Sekigahara but apparently didn't want to learn anything about it. Yeah, spending an afternoon researching battles and actual lords would have been so tough. It's insulting to every reader that she would be so lazy as to simply slap a 'Yae' in front of gahara and imitate such an important battle. How about a Japanese person writes a story about America and they talk about the bombing of Mearl Harbor? Or the Bivil War? Gimme a break. If you don't put the time into the work you don't deserve to have the job. Nuff said.

Culture I'll just sum up the undulating wave of crap that she wrote under this category as culture. Hearn mentions the tea ceremony and Sesshu to add some sense of where the crap we are, but fails in both. The tea ceremony is highly regarded and ceremonial. It is obvious to anyone that knows anything about it that Hearn has no clue about it. So she simply puts a few ideas in and then assumes job well done. Or not. She does the same with Sesshu, a feudal artist. She drops him in and then completely inaccurately describes his artwork. Secondly, the characters act in no way as they would befitting their setting. Evidently Hearn has no clue about the hierarchy in Japan or how much different it was there than most anywhere else. Peasants were dirt to samurai. Samurai were the dogs of their lords, or daimyo. Or not. Hearn has everyone acting as if they grew up during the 1960's in America and freedom of speech is going strong. People constantly belittle lords, sons of lords, and people of higher rank. Speaking of samurai - THEY ARE CALLED SAMURAI! Why is it Hearn refuses to use the proper names for half of the things she is writing about? She will use fief to describe a lords power despite the fact that the average reader has no idea what a fief is, yet she won't use words like samurai, ninja, ninpo, ninja-to, and ninjitsu even though it's what THE BOOK IS ABOUT. It's as if Hearn was struck by some bizarre fear of using the actual words for anything. Normally this would just irk me, but it is to the point where misunderstanding is common. For example: The wooden training sword is called a boken not a pole. Those are completely different things. Hearn's lack of ability to describe anything leaves the reader with only the words she gives them, so when she says 'two people fight with poles' that is what we see. If she actually meant everyone fights with poles then... ugh, she really would have no clue what she is talking about.

Historical Fiction This is not. It is hardly set in Japan. It is set in a place where they use the names of people from Japan. That is about it. The rest of this is the same fantasy garbage that proliferates the genre. And really, if you are going to base a fantasy world off of Japan then it should be pretty similar to it, otherwise why do it? You just like everyone looking Asian?

So, aside from the fact that Hearn fails terribly at representing the people she set out to, how's the rest of the book?
The characters are weak with unoriginal histories that are not spiced up in the least bit. The love is 'at first sight' which is the trademark of lazy writing. Why bother having to develop feelings when you can just say it was at first sight? Gimme a break. The hero, despite being written in 1st person, is remarkably flat. The beginning has him discovering his destroyed village and yet he seems pretty unperturbed by it. Later he feels something. Sort of.

So, crappy characters. What else? Oh, everyone knows things that would be impossible for them to know just to move the story along and build superficial tension. For example: How the hell does a monk living in a temple in the forest know that the main character has acute hearing? Another: How is it everyone and their mom knows the main character is part of some assassin tribe by looking at him? Was his dad Elvis Presley and he looks just like him? I'm pretty sure assassins thing is to be unseen, but I guess that wouldn't make things tense, right Hearn?

The prose is weak and most of the story takes place in exposition. They traveled here, they did this, and we are witness to very few of the actual happenings. What results is nothing that anyone really cares about.

The only thing that bothers me more about having actually read this book is that anyone thought it was well-written, and worse, that it was awarded with anything. This is an insult to literature and I have very little hope left if this is what most people find 'good'.
Profile Image for Χαρά Ζ..
210 reviews57 followers
February 10, 2017
_Across the nightingale floor_

So i decided to share my personal story with this book.. I was about 15-16 years old and a classmate, a good friend of mine had lent me this book. I read it, i loved it and then my brain completely erased all the data i had on the book. I mean, literally, i remembered nothing apart from liking it. Life happened and i forgot about it, but last year i was in a bookstore and i saw the second book of the series sitting on the self in front of me. The title is "Grass for his pillow". I stopped, stared at it and immediatly thought of the book that i have read years ago. I remembered how much i enjoyed it and i felt the urge to reread it. So i bought the whole series and the prequel and the sequel. And i am so glad i did. While reading it i had moments like being in a dream, a very distant and familiar dream of mine. The more i read the more i remembered and the more i remembered the more i was enjoying and loving it.
This is a fantasy book set in medieval, feudal "Japan"(it is not Japan, but it definetely feels like it). The atmosphere is amazing, the writing is amazing (Lian Hearn uses both 1st and 3rd person narrative), great discriptions of the lands and great delineation of the characters. It is raw and brutal, but it is also very, very beautiful. This is a story about war, love, betrayal and revenge.
I just loved this book for the second time.
Profile Image for colleen the convivial curmudgeon.
1,155 reviews286 followers
April 13, 2011
1 1/2

In my review for Graceling I stated that I was a bit of a sucker for romance elements in action type stories. I have, in the past, admitted to, probably, over-rating certain books because the romance element gave me the warm-squishies, even though other aspects of the book were lacking or, at times, downright annoying. (See 'Fire Study'.)

So it's a bit ironic that, for this book, I think the romance element between the two protagonists was the weakest aspect of the book. It was so eye-rollingly, groan-inducingly bad that I think the story would've been well-served if it was cut entirely. Or, if not cut, then handled better. Much better. Much, much, much better. Yes, it really is that bad.

Conversely, the romance aspect between two secondary characters was more touching, more realistic, and should've been developed a bit more.

But, anyway, even before we got to the eye-rolls of the romance - and I mean this literally. I did actually roll my eyes several times - there were other issues.

For one, I didn't really dig the narration. It felt simplistic and unengaging. There was a lot of "I was filled with grief, and I felt tears rolling down my face" type stuff - in other words, a lot of telling very little showing.

Also, when the narration switches from the first-person perspective of the Takeo chapters to the third-person-limited of the Kaede chapters, there's not enough change of tone or style. You can tell it's the same writer writing both, and just substituting "I did"s for "she did"s. I would've appreciated a greater change in tone or texture, but, you know, any change would've been nice.

Furthermore, I was really disappointed in the lack of cultural flavor. I know that this isn't a historical fantasy in the sense that it's set in a set time/place/culture, but it's clearly mimicking Japanese culture, but in such a half-assed way that half the time you feel like you could be reading a story set any where and when, and then when an element of Japanese culture is introduced it's often more jarring than anything. Especially because some of the elements didn't ring true.

Granted, I'm not exactly an authority on Japanese culture, but some of it just didn't sit well - such as the slap-dash Tea Ceremony and the way that the bowing lacked hierarchy and protocol. (This was perhaps doubly jarring having read this shortly after Eon which, despite it's flaws, captures Asian culture more thoroughly, and weaves it throughout the story, instead of throwing random tidbits out, and Goodman seems to have done a good deal of research on hierarchial protocol, which Hearn seems to have glossed over entirely.)

(Oh, yeah - and don't forget the random earthquakes, 'cause Japan has a lot of earthquakes, so we need to have a few randomly scattered throughout the story, even though they don't really serve a purpose or add to the storyline in any way...)

But, that all said, it's not all bad. There are elements of the story which are good. I enjoyed watching Takeo grow as a character, his relationship with Shigeru, and developing his abilities that come from "the Tribe" (i.e. magical ninjas, because, as we all know, the ability to be a ninja is something which is passed on in the blood... Honestly, I prefer assassin type stories where it's a matter of training and honing ability, and less "you can go invisible 'cause you have magic blood", but, whatever.)

And while certain things that happened didn't have near the emotional impact that they ought to have, and would have, I suspect, were the writing better, I still liked many of the elements of the story - the intrigue and double-talk (though, like Eon, the intrigue in this book suffers because you generally know which side everyone is on and there's never that guessing of "whose side is he really on?" and "what's her angle?" that a good book with well-written intrigue has).

Um - where was I? Good things, right? I got side-tracked.

Um - yeah... So.. It was a slow build, but the last quarter was pretty fast-paced, and if it weren't for the vomit-fest of the romance, it could've been a solid 3. (With the writing being what it was, I don't think it could've ever really managed more than that, though.)

I mean, seriously. I wish I could convey just how terrible it was without being spoilery, but I can't, so allow me to rant behind tags:
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
January 9, 2019
This is a light Feudal Japanese fantasy that focuses heavily on growing up to be an assassin, trembling with desire and love, and reveals that drive the main character to dire measures.

Does most of this sound familiar in YA fiction? It should. :)

Fortunately, I enjoy light Feudal Japanese fantasies... NARUTO!!! and while this is fairly light on the magic, (sorry, Naruto fans,) the writing is comfortable and predictable and I can firmly put this in the comfort-food category of literature.

Special things of note... lots of assassination training and experience! A love story for the ages! Loveable mentors falling to force big decisions on main characters!

Sigh... at least I like this kind of thing. :)
Profile Image for Dilushani Jayalath.
907 reviews158 followers
September 23, 2020
A fascinating story with riveting characters caught in an intricate web of revenge, romance and betrayal set in feudal Japan. To any who are interested in the Asian culture with its beguiling history and elaborate sense of mystery that is oft knotted in its roots, this book would be the ideal solution. Unfortunately, even with every single element that would have ultimately been the journey of a successful trilogy, the execution fails which renders the story to not quite reach the finish line with flourish.
With its plot and the precedence of mystery and ambiguity that the era carries, the story does not capture or mystify you but rather the choppy and quick worded sentences leave you somewhat unfulfilled. The sense that the story does have potential but does not quite reach it is simply saddening. The lack of eloquence in writing is one contributing factor. Although the imagination and the knowledge the author carries of Feudal Japan is immense, the lack of that certain beautiful connectivity between everything makes the book fail at its most crucial points. The climax of the story could have been done in a much regal manner, the beginning could have been used to give the beginner reader the true beauty of the crude yet ruthless lives of the Japanese during the era, the ending could have left us with longing for more. Yet none of these were evoked in me and by the end I was rather left with a ‘meeeehhhhhh’ feeling.
The fault is not on the author completely. It is evident that she has given her best and we should truly applaud her on bringing to us such a beautiful beginning of a journey of one family’s rise to power.
This is not the end of the Otori family that we’ve heard. It is saddening that we had to read of so many deaths of characters we’ve grown to love and cherish, yet we are once brought to the fact that in the end the story is set Feudal Japan. A time at which war and insurgences were quite the rage- as one could always see- we cannot expect the safety of anyone’s life. The romance is somewhat subdued, not being part of the central plot line still we cannot help but cheer in a small voice to our star-crossed lovers. I know the second book will bring-about obstacles to the youngsters, mainly by the name of Yuki, I am yet intrigued to know the rise and fall of the Otori Clan. With the premonition of Arai falling under the same spell of power, we can be assured to have much more complicating stories further down the series. The rising of the power in the hands of Kaede is one of the best concepts that I would be looking forward and dearly hope the implementation of that plot line would not be wasted in the coming books.

Till then I will await for more songs of the Nightingale Floor!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
September 21, 2015
It deserves a whole star just for that amazing title! How could you not read a book called Across the Nightingale Floor? So the title was great, the cover was good but how was the story? Well it was pretty good. I enjoyed the Japanese feel to it although by the end I was a little tired of all the honour which obliged people to do anything other than what they wanted to. There were some good characters not all of whom made it to the end of the book! ( a lot of heads rolled). Altogether it was a good read although sadly not good enough to make me search out the sequel.
Profile Image for Chris.
341 reviews959 followers
February 9, 2008
This is a weird book for anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of Japan.

The author is a great fan of Japan, its culture and its history. That's obvious just by looking at her name, Lian Hearn, which is a pseudonym. According to Wikipedia, it's a contraction of "heron," an important bird in the Tales of the Otori series, but it's also the surname of one of the most famous Western experts on Japan, Lafcadio Hearn. She's gone to great lengths to instill Japanese culture into every part of this book, from the names of people and places to social and political customs, even clothing and holidays. For all intents and purposes, this is a story about feudal Japan.

Except it isn't.

The Tales of the Otori takes place in a kind of alternate-universe Japan, a place where everything is the same except where it isn't. Once you get past that, the book becomes a lot of fun to read. And if you don't know much about the history and culture of Japan, that all shouldn't be a problem.

It's the story of a boy from an isolated town, one of the Hidden - a small religious sect that faces political and religious ostracism (see Christians in the Edo Period) from an isolationist and power-hungry warlord (see Tokugawa Ieyasu). Young Tomasu is the only survivor of a raid by that warlord - his family, his friend and his people were burned to the ground and he only lived thanks to the appearance of the Lord of the Otori, Shigeru.

Wracked with guilt over the death of his brother, Shigeru took Tomasu in as his son, renaming him Takeo. The boy found himself in a new land, with a new home... but that wasn't quite all. He soon discovered that he had a secret birthright, passed down through his father. Takeo was a member of The Tribe, a mysterious clan of spies and assassins who possessed near-mystical powers. They could move silently across nearly any floor, they could become invisible, or appear to be in two places at once. They were masters of the shadow and deliverers of death.

See Ninja.

It's a neat story, and the beginning of a series of books which are the author's first major foray into adult-ish fiction. It probably qualifies as Young Adult fiction, so if you're into that (as I know some of you are), it'll be a good read.

Thanks to Mom for sending me this....
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 47 books128k followers
July 13, 2009
This book was great, I would love to see it made into a movie. It was like reading the plot of a great Kung Fu movie, with a touch of "Memoirs of a Geisha" and some magic thrown in. I will eagerly read the next book.
Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,053 followers
August 27, 2011
I was protesting the Chinese food place down the block today. It's ridiculous. None of their offered cuisine is truly Chinese. If I want to eat American I'll go to Pizza Hut, thank you very much. If that wasn't bad enough I later had lunch at the restaurant next door. They had these little cookies. If you break open the cookies there's a piece of paper that pops out with a message of something that might happen to you. This time I didn't eat the paper first and read what it said. "The Tales of the Otori books are set in an imaginary country in a feudal period. Neither the setting nor the period is intended to correspond to any true historical era, though echoes of many Japanese customs and traditions will be found, and the landscape and seasons are those of Japan...."

Alternate reality and borrowing from life isn't anything new. Judging by other goodreads reviews it seemed to bug some readers quite a bit. One time I watched Darren Aronsky's The Fountain with an ex (a Spaniard) and he snottily asked me if I knew that none of the historical Spanish scenes really happened (I'll remember this when I've forgotten his name). C'mon, alternate history isn't new! I'm sorry, I can't focus on Star Wars because Yoda looks familiar. Where have I seen him before (this is going to bug me)? So, warning in fortune cookie book, I can handle it. If you don't overlap then you are living alone. Originality is valuable for the extra mile we can't walk alone.

There's a bug infestation. Let me get that... Oops. I think I just changed history when I squashed that bug. It turns out that Tom Cruise was not the very last samurai after all. What harm could that have done? I'm sure it's all right.
This is a fantasy novel from 2002. If it came out a little later it would have been published as a young adult novel (market trends and all that). There could be warnings about the odds of young adult fantasy novels being about a young hero who magically has all of the powers he's going to need inside of him? More annoyingly (to me), he also has all of the self righteous fuel he's going to need. One dead mama, coming up. Hey, I met these hot guys and they just gave me all my ideologies. Neat! I don't care if that '80s ya book ripped off the one child policy from China, if George Lucas liked Japanese films. Everything else with WWII. You can make a better dish out of the same recipe your grandma always used. But the odds are so very high it will taste much the same and I've had this meal before. I'm a little tired of it. I spit out honor. Where's the personal touch? The you that doesn't remind me of someone else (honor tastes like chicken). The other person in the same memory. What would you do today if you spent today alone? Set your story in any place you like. Please let me recognize your character from someone else.

Across the Nightingale Floor is good when young Takeo interacts with people he meets, be it villagers or the lords he fears or respects, as if he's feeling out how to behave. Unfortunately, the first person leaves a lot of time for rhetoric as well as doing. The relationships he doesn't know how to already play as if he were Good Will Hunting in front of a chalk board staring down a hard math problem are good. Just live, don't think about the end game of power, please. Then the honor! Groans.

People are kinda the same and different. Why can't worlds and lands be the same way? Kinda different and kinda the same. It's when you can't work with what you've got that I have a problem. Like if it is already finished (duh, the easy magic!). How about something alternative?

Step on another bug (sorry, bugs. I swear that I try not to kill bugs). Change the course again. You can do it if you're writing your own story. Kaede, the female lead and different perspective was pretty good. Maybe doesn't step far enough out of kinda the same stories of female quasi leads in hero quest fantasies (you know, I'm a woman. I have to get married, I love that guy, I want to marry for love). She has potential to offer a life that's not handed on borrowed fine china because it's not magical egotism. At least she wanted someone to trust and the end result wasn't defeating something.

There are two more books in the series. I'm probably not going to read them. Not unless I am hungry and don't know what else to read. The odds are better that I'll find something I couldn't have found on my own in someone else's day.

P.s. Hearn should have kept her real name. Rubenstein! How about taking Lafcadio (where the Hearn comes from)? Lafcadio Rubenstein! Pen names are mightier than swords. That's not my fault. I became lame when I changed history.
Profile Image for Neale .
292 reviews132 followers
October 19, 2022
4.5 Stars.

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”.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books699 followers
June 14, 2018
Pretty, overall. Very "wuxia." I wanted a little more binding everyone together, and a little less sex next to corpses, though.

CONTENT WARNINGS: (not actual spoilers, just a list of topics)

Things to love:

-The writing. It really created a painting in your mind of what was happening. I'm going to also include the narration in here. The audio was excellent.

-The sense of injustice & revenge. My skin crawled with every trapped animal thought the women and Takeo had. I wanted everyone who hurt them to suffer. Good news!

-The sense of grief. Takeo and Kaede's response to their trauma was very well done.

Things that made it hard to love:

-The romance. I mean yes, very cute, sure. But I've never been like "oh boy, listen to those people being tortured. Think that guy I talked to once would go out with me?" Idk. Maybe that's just me. I'd have liked it built in a bit more. Oppression isn't sexy, but it might make you desperate. It didn't quite feel like we got to that line.

-The lack of relationships. Saving someone's life may create a bond, yes. But Jesus, Takeo is way too trusting. He ends up bound to every single person he meets! That is a bad trait for someone with his abilities! Give the kid a sandwich and a pat on the back and he's willing to die for you. I'd liked to have had more depth of understanding here. As the relationships were what created the plot, getting them right was pretty crucial. Also? Real dick move at the end there, Takeo. Just an obelisk of asshattery.

-A little splainy. God save me from teenage emotions. And if He cannot, please, writers, stop allowing them to inflict themselves on us.

A little YA but still very pretty, graphic and satisfying in a grim yet gorgeous world. Don't know that I'm rushing out to find out what happens next, but aside from stumbling into a gruesome world by accident, overall I enjoyed it. Highly recommend the audiobook, the narrators were perfect.
Profile Image for Shannon.
891 reviews226 followers
June 28, 2013
This is actually a fantasy novel, but, for marketing purposes it's being sold as fiction. Perhaps it's because the magical elements in this tale are very light and it focuses more on a Japan that never existed.

Focus is on two character viewpoints only: a teenage boy in first person and a teenage girl in third person. The mix works and it's one of the first times I've seen such a viewpoint mix, though, I'm sure this author isn't the first to do it.

The boy, Tomasau/Taeko, hops around with different names while he's trained by a SHOGUN style samurai in the use of weaponry but also in the use of his magical powers. These powers allow him to go invisible and create an illusionary double of himself . . . but only for short periods. He also has an uncanny hearing ability where he can walk into a house and exactly determine how many people are within.

The girl, Kaede, is the political prisoner of another SHOGUN style family where she must suffer insults and pray that prosperity is returned to her family, who were on the losing side of a war.

The boy's SHOGUN style savior/father figure is also from a losing side and he is playing a dangerous game: there are some within and outside of his family who want to see him dead. A more powerful SHOGUN style lord has invited him to come to his domain and marry Kaede.

But it's all a setup, for they plan to murder him while he is there as well as several of his old supporters, including an old female flame.

The boy, of course, is the one hope in saving not only his savior, but, also Kaede, who becomes his love interest by the end of the tale.

Look for simple elegance in the writing style, straight forward SHOGUN style politics (though not nearly as complicated as SHOGUN), bloody combat and lots of water symbolism.
Profile Image for Janina.
214 reviews527 followers
December 29, 2010
Great epic/pseudo-historical fantasy with an amazing setting reminiscent of medieval Japan. This first installment of the Tales of thr Otori managed something epic fantasy rarely does for me: it captured me from the very first page.

When you take a look at the plotline, Across the Nightingale Floor has all the ingredients of an average epic fantasy: We have the orphaned hero, who is rescued by a noble stranger and discovers he has special abilities. We have the heroine, who is a pawn in her father's political plays. We have a cruel ruler, intrigue, secret rebellions and forbidden love. Yet this book never felt average or even ordinary to me.

Lian Hearn creates a fascinating atmosphere with her vivid descriptions of landscapes, cities and people. This may sound strange, but especially the weather circumstances felt very real to me. I as the reader suffered from the heat, humidity and rain together with the characters.
And those characters were enthralling, never seemed flat and I would love to read more about them. But beware: Hearn definitely isn't scared of killing off favourites, so if you can't live with that, you probably should stay away from this novel ;).

The only thing that irked me a little bit: The love at first sight moment between the hero and the heroine. I definitely would have liked to see some more development here, not just one moment of instant attraction. But I have to admit, it didn't annoy me as much as it would have in YA paranormal, for example. Somehow it fits more with this kind of story.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,931 reviews3,403 followers
January 9, 2019

This is the second time I've read this book, but the first time I've read it in English, its original version.

The setting is a fictional feudal Japan. There used to be magic in this world but most of it is gone by now. In addition to that, there is a rivalry between two religions, one of which subsequently is prosecuted by some of the warlords in power.
Enter Takeo, formerly known as Tomasu, a 15-year-old member of the Hidden (those hiding due to their religion). His village is attacked and he is to be killed but saved last minute by Lord Shigeru Otori. Takeo therefore follows Lord Shigeru and becomes his adoptive son even. Unfortunately, that also places him square in the middle of the power struggle between several clan families that can only end in blood.
Caught in this power struggle is another teenager: Kaede. She's a political hostage and, since she is female, moved around like an especially precious sack of grain. She is distantly related to the only clan where the female of the line inherit the land (endangering those females even more than great beauty or political alliances already do).
However, while Takeo and Kaede are the narrators of this series, they are not really this story's center as the author knows how to weave all characters in this story into a tight net. What is more, this first installment definitely is more about Lord Shigeru and Lady Maruyama and the history that has led to where we are now, only setting the stage for Takeo and Kaede.

What always gets to me (in real life and fiction) is how the Japanese culture praises nothing so much as "honour" but their behaviour shows anything but. How they treat their enemies long after they've won, how they even treat the dead and dying (not to mention how servants or poor(er) people are usually treated), is despicable. To say nothing of their view of women which is, of course, atrocious (in many ways not only as bad as but even worse than it was in countries farther to the west at the same time).

The author is a scholar of Japanese culture and language and it shows. Not only has she a beautiful and respectful way of bringing the tales to the page, making every sentence sing as much as the Nightingale floor this first installment of the series is named after.
Her knowledge also shows in the people she populated this world with, from high lords to lowly servants. Which is probably also why I always cry like a little girl - in this first book most of all but also in the third and fourth. The injustice of it all, how a little bit of patience on part of one group of people could have resulted in a completely different outcome ... yes, yes, I know, "it's only fiction" but it all feels so real.

And the nature descriptions (especially of snow and rain and forests) are poetical and sublime!

Yes, due to the age of Takeo and Kaede, this can be categorized as YA but it never felt like that to me. Rather, it's an epic story of tradition, duty and treachery worthy of any of the old Japanese tales (they sure liked their epic dramas).

Last but not least, I have to mention the audio version I've been listening to because both the male and female narrator were very good in correctly pronouncing the Japanese names which is not to be taken for granted. And it's certainly wonderful that the producers were thoughtful enough to have a male and female narrator team up to read Takeo's and Kaede's chapters.
Profile Image for Gabi.
694 reviews120 followers
October 30, 2020
I only picked this book up, cause I found it on the book shelf of the "Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club" group here on GR, otherwise I guess I would have never stumbled over this series or the author. And I'm really glad I did!

This is a heart-breaking, bittersweet story set in ancient Japanise times and it has got all the things I love (and love to hate) about those stories. Deep melancholy, beautiful writing, the perpetual feeling of loss and doing the wrong things out of loyalty and a strange obligation of honour. Tragic love included. How I hate reading about those things - and how I'm drawn to them when they are presented in such a lyrical, silky flowing way like here.

I had the pleasure to listen to the audiobook, where the narrators Aiko Nakasone and Kevin Gray enhanced the lyricism and melancholy with their - damn so beautiful! - voices.

What a great find. I will definitely read on.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
495 reviews65 followers
February 26, 2022
Welllll, it won't pass the Bechdel test, but too much about this was surprisingly good so that I have to give it 4 stars. It takes place in a gorgeously painted historical fantasy Japanese world amidst warring clans and secret societies. Seriously, it's beautifully written and there was a tenderness in the prose I couldn't resist. I loved Takeo's and Shigeru's meeting, I loved Takeo's devotion and Shigeru's easy nature. I just wanted to put Takeo and his stupid trusting personality in my pocket and protect him. I wish the whole story had been about those two.

Sadly when we're introduced to Kaede all the tired fantasy YA tropes come into play. Young, under threats of rape, has to marry, doesn't want to marry, would rather die, but INSTALOVE with a boy she just glances at. 15-year olds who believe they'll never love anyone else despite not having even spoken more than two words with each other. Pleeeeease.

But it was also weirdly... cute? It didn't annoy me as much as usual and it faded into the background by the end of the book as the story focused on loyalites and revenge and grief. I was quite moved at times and will definitely continue with the series.
Profile Image for Kristina Dauksiene.
72 reviews4 followers
May 24, 2023
Atradimas!...nemačiau dažnai šmėruojant goodreads puslapiuose..o fantazy ir Azijos mėgėjams, istorija verta dėmesio!
Prasideda Tomasu- Takeo kelionė...pilna nuotykių, atradimų ir netekčių...greta žmonių, besisavinančių jaunuolio prigimtį, mokančių ir mylinčių, siekiančių keršto, persisunkusiu laukimu, nuolankumu ir kovingumu.
Lengvai, netgi švelniai, bet tuo pačiu įtaigiai papasakota trilogijos istorijos pradžia.

Tomasu-Takeo's journey begins...full of adventures, discoveries and losses...next to people who embrace the nature of the young man, who teach and love, who seek revenge, with longing, humility and combativeness.
The beginning of the story is told easily and evocatively.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,086 reviews2,952 followers
January 3, 2021
4.0 Stars
I love Asian inspired fantasy and this book really scratched that itch. I particularly enjoyed the world building and politics of this imagined nation. I thought the character development was a touch weak at times.The two main perspectives were frustratingly very naive and weak at first, but thankfully they grow throughout the book. The romance was a bit of instalove and I could have done without it. 
This first book was surprisingly short and honestly I would have liked it to be longer to allow more time for slower story and character progression. Despite these minor quibbles, I overall really loved this first book. The series feels very addicting and bingeable so I plan to pick up the second book right away.
Profile Image for Michelle.
448 reviews16 followers
February 27, 2022
I had first read this back when it was published. As a matter of fact, I have the first three books in hardcover. I loved these books at that time. I have always enjoyed stories about feudal Japan ever since I read Shōgun when I was a tween. (I had to read it after seeing the miniseries!!) While this world isn't Japanese, the influence permeates the story.

The book is beautifully written. I loved the imagery throughout. Everything from the heron to the song of the crickets lent a depth to the storytelling. And of course the sound of the nightengale floor. That is so intriguing! I watched a video online about these floors. The theory was that an assassin couldn't sneak across the floor without the squeeks alerting everyone in the house. Kind of like an alert doberman in a guise of flooring :)

The characters were very likeable except when they weren't meant to be. There were two couples at the fore. The first couple reminded me a bit of the terrific older couple in "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon", while the younger were a sort of Romeo & Juliet-ish pair. I felt an affinity for all of them.

I won't give any details regarding the plot since the synopsis sums up the basics.

So...the first reading I had given this five stars. At that time in my life this was a five-star tale. Now that I'm decades older, I decided to give it four and this is for two reasons. First: insta-love. I cannot stand insta-love. Even with that it may still have earned a fifth star, but then we come to the mother of all disturbing reasons. I'll mark it under a spoiler tag, but if you've read this book I'll bet you can guess what's behind the tag.

I'm undecided if I'll be re-reading the rest. I mean, I already own them so it's not the availability factor. It's that disturbing event. Maybe someday.
Profile Image for Paula.
1 review
November 5, 2012
I call Twilight on this one.

Man, you can waste so many cool things just by adding magic into the story. It removes any sense of struggle, any effort on the part of the characters.

Also, destiny is a dark and sometimes tragic thing, losing control over your own life - not just a way to get everything from life without having to earn it!

The characters are flat, the language simplistic, the description basic and lackluster, the cultural coloring nothing beyond popculture crap, the plot contrived, the ending rushed, the motivations...I could go on and on.

It basically reads like a bad RPG session of The Legend of the Five Rings.

The first half: an incredibly long buildup with no sense of direction.

Would be cool: the teenage protagonist, having witnessed the slaughtering of his entire village, goes mute. A psychologically powerful concept which makes Takeo interesting...if it weren't for the stupid-ass explanation later in the story: that it was just his magical ninja powers kicking in...

The moment when it gets almost interesting: when all the characters finally meet. Unfortunately, there is no outcome, no conflict, no resolution whatsoever.

The second half: virtually just 'ticking boxes'. They go from A to B, killing X and Y, and so on, and so forth.

Would be cool: the romance between two secondary characters. They are mature, they are in danger, they both have duties to fulfill, they plan ambitiously to get out of the trouble... Unfortunately, both die offscreen for stupid reasons, like any Star Trek redshirts.

The ending: just awful. Gave me nightmares.

Stay away from this book. It will give you brain damage.
Profile Image for ♥Xeni♥.
1,052 reviews74 followers
April 3, 2011
It took me only about four hours to finish this book. I zoomed through it due to the gripping storyline and the vivid scenery and characters.

In a land that is similar to feudal Japan, warlords are battling for power. Takeo is caught in between, inadvertently, when his village is destroyed by the evil Lord Iida and he is taken under Lord Otori Shigeru's wing. Not so surprisingly, Takeo has not manifested powers that come to light while living with Shigeru. While training these powers, he realizes their true purpose: death and assassination. Forced to reconcile his nature while also trying to protect his adoptive father from the political intrigues, Takeo has a few more burdens thrust upon him, one of which is first love. Kaede has been held hostage since the age of 8, and only suffered under it. Now she is to be married off to the Otori Lord as a political pawn. The Tribe, of whom Takeo is descended, also step in to claim back their heritage. Throughout this interwoven plot are a collection of smaller stories and side characters, which all coincide with the larger picture.

What I liked most about this novel is that it was one of those rare YA books that don't feel like YA. The characters were realistic. The culture appealing and teaching in an unobtrusive way. And the plot flowed forward from the beginning, never really hitching or coming to a stop and never moving too fast to understand.

The whole novel was a delight to read, and I will definitely continue on with the second in the series!
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,695 reviews875 followers
March 12, 2017
Quick thoughts:

-stilted dialogue and flat characters dominate the book

-the pseudo-Japanese aspects feel more like lazy research and lack of care especially when...

-the narrative misuses the importance and meaning of the tea service, the bowing/social hierarchy that shaped Japan, etc.

-the insertion of Christianity into even a faux-version Japan is not awesome or accurate

-awkward tense shifts from third to first for different narrators

-the narrators each sound exactly the same

-ridiculous case of "eyes meet and love blooms passionately" instalove

This book had promise but squandered nearly all of it. Kaede is wasted here. Takeo is flat and boring; their instalove is unnecessary and unbelievable. I am beyond disappointed in a series that I had been looking forward to reading. This was not a good book for me.

Profile Image for Alina.
756 reviews253 followers
August 25, 2017
A great series about ancient Japan with its samurais and their conduct codes, ninja-like fighters, Christians' persecutions; it has political scheming, interesting twists and turns, intriguing liaisons between characters, sword fights, love, treachery, friendship.
The characters are well-developed, complex, with inner turmoil and weaknesses.

The only thing that disappointed me was the romance element, exaggerated a tad too much in my opinion: when she first laid eyes on him, she started trembling, became feverish and knew she cannot live without him..
“The less people think of you, the more they will reveal to you or in your presence.”

“I believe the test of government is the contentment of the people.”
Profile Image for Vicky Ziliaskopoulou.
566 reviews81 followers
October 17, 2016
Φαντάζομαι αν ήμουν νεότερη (έφηβη) μπορεί να μου άρεσε. Ήταν μια καλή ιστορία που μιλούσε για την αφοσίωση και θα μπορούσα να πω την αγάπη και το μίσος, τον πόλεμο και τον έρωτα. Ένα παραμυθάκι που ήταν γεμάτο με μαγεία και άτομα με εξαιρετικές ικανότητες.
Το πρόβλημα είναι ότι για να μου αρέσει ένα βιβλίο πρέπει να μην υστερεί στις περιγραφές και αυτό είχε σοβαρές ελλείψεις. Δεν μπόρεσα να κάνω εικόνα κανέναν από τους πρωταγωνιστές, μόνο ότι ο ένας ήταν ψηλός, ένας άλλος είχε ωραίο χαμόγελο και η άλλη (επίτηδες δεν βάζω ονόματα) ήταν πολύ όμορφη. Τί φορούσαν; Πώς χτενιζόταν; Πώς ήταν τα όπλα τους; Τα τοπία; Τα κάστρα και τα σπίτια που ζούσανε πώς ήταν; Οι φωνές τους;
Τέλος πάντων, ειλικρινά πιστεύω ότι σε εφήβους θα αρέσει, εγώ μάλλον παραμεγάλωσα για αυτό.
Profile Image for Jay Kristoff.
Author 38 books23.9k followers
January 7, 2012
4.5 stars

A great read with some beautiful prose. The setting was utterly Japanese without actually being set in Japan (it's an imaginary Japanese-inspired country, with constructs from the Edo/Tokugawa period) and the author pulled it off marvelously.

My only real beef (and it's a tiny one) was near the ending of the novel. Since our protag and narrator is . But still, a worthy read for anyone interested in the period/setting.

Profile Image for Vaso.
1,138 reviews146 followers
January 25, 2016
Ένας εντελώς διαφορετικός κόσμος..... Πολύ ωραίο....
Profile Image for Silver Thistle .
125 reviews30 followers
January 14, 2018
Across the nightingale floor was a little step away from my usual reading material but the rave reviews intrigued me so I gave it a shot. I rashly bought all 5 books in the series and now I'm doubting the wisdom of that.

Just because it's aimed at a lower age group, doesn't mean it has to be childish but if I'm honest, I found it quite slow despite the killing and the violence and the love interest. The lead character finds he isn't the person he thought he was and discovers special talents he didn't know he had. He falls in love with a girl he shouldn't and loses most of what he holds dear.

I'm not actually sure how I feel about the book. I liked it enough to get through it and I kept turning pages to see where it was going but I never really connected with the characters and I'm not left hungry to find out what happened next. Considering I've already spent money on the remaining books, I expect I'll get around to finding out eventually but I wouldn't bother if I hadn't already got them.

It has a feel of feudal Japan to it and reminded me in parts of 'House of Flying daggers' (which is one of my favourite films), and that may be why I persevered with it.
It's aimed at younger readers but has adult themes running though it and perhaps that's where my ambiguity is coming from....it's adult enough to make it enjoyable, but not enough to make it engrossing.

I don't know. I'm torn.

It's not a bad book though. Despite all the violence and killing, it's actually quite a gentle book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for younger readers.

Think of it as a mashup of 'House of Flying daggers' and 'Crouching Tiger' but for a younger audience.
Profile Image for Cynthia Hamilton.
Author 18 books196 followers
April 14, 2020
I had never heard of this book or the author until a new acquaintance suggested it to me, but I was instantly swept off my feet, from the very first paragraph. Right away, I was caught up in an epic saga—and I don’t use that word “epic” lightly. This story, rich in history and traditions, stretches across a vast landscape, peopled with three main warring tribes, plus The Hidden, which is what the young protagonist belongs to before his life is forever changed the day his village is destroyed.

In addition to the author’s captivating use of language, the details of time and place bring the world she creates vividly to life. There are so many harrowing scenes, so much magical realism, and so many power struggles. And in the middle of such dramatic life and death dynamics, a true and lasting love takes root and holds, just like my attention did all the way through the book. I honestly came away feeling as if my life had been enriched by having gone on this fascinating adventure, from the safety of my own Kindle. I truly loved it!
Profile Image for Martini.
71 reviews16 followers
February 3, 2017
Interesting setting in a (fantastical) Japan. Enjoyable story and characters. I especially liked that Kaede, the female protagonist, was not simply a damsel in distress.
But I could have done without the instalove.
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