Lian Hearn studied modern languages at Oxford University and worked as a film critic and arts editor in London before settling in Australia. A lifelong interest in Japan led to the study of the Japanese language, many trips to Japan, and culminated in the Tales of the Otori series.
Mystical powers and martial arts rampage through this pseudo-Japanese story, the first of a projected trilogy by newcomer Hearn, with an abandon that's head spinning. From the entrance of the 16-year-old hero, Takeo, as he is about to be swatted down by a mounted horseman and the way he can become invisible or make a duplicate of himself when he needs to, to the head-rolling decapitations that follow interminably, the impossible becomes the semiplausible. Takeo, who joins the Otori clan, is a religious outcast, and also, surprisingly, a member of "the Tribe," a secretive race that has unusual mental and physical powers that lend them an unworldly air. Takeo learns how to control his burgeoning talents just in time to avenge the death of his mentor, while politics and clan rivalries lead to an increasing amount of graphic bloodshed. Takeo enjoys a few blissful moments with the fetching Lady Kaede Shirakawa but, unfortunately, she is not destined to be his, now or in the future. For fans of Japanese samurai warrior fantasy, this novel is right in the ballpark, filled with swords, clan in-fighting, love affairs, invisibility and magical Ninja powers. However, for those looking for something with a bit of depth, the author tends to gloss over the details of why and how. Takeo learns the craft of the Tribe offstage and all the political maneuvering that goes into the clan warfare is rather murky. Hopefully, the next book will show what Hearn is really capable of. (Sept. 2) Forecast: With movie rights sold to Universal Studios and foreign rights sold in 11 countries, this one seems a sure bet for genre bestseller lists. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
'The most compelling novel to have been published this year' Amanda Craig, Observer
Born as one of the Hidden, a pacifistic group opposed to any sort of violence, Takeo meets brutality head-on when a local warlord destroys his villages and murders his family. Rescued by a rival warlord, Takeo becomes the adopted son of Lord Shigeru and learns of his true heritage as one of the Tribe, a clan of assassins with supernatural powers. When his adopted father becomes the victim of treachery, Takeo faces a choice between loyalty to his past and to his new and perilous future. This first novel, a series opener, brings a fantasy Japan to vivid life with a minimum of frills. A good addition to most fantasy collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/02.] Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Hearn's a very good writer who has finally created a work that fits snugly into a mass market adult genre. Her `quality fantasy' novel is the first volume in a planned trilogy entitled `Tales of the Otori.' It has many of the traditional trappings of the genre-a medieval setting (in this case quasi-Japanese), a seemingly-innocuous young narrator who discovers he has special powers, an older warrior mentor, a journey to the centre of an evil empire, and a virgin-in-peril. It also has some pleasing contemporary variations: the women are as deadly as the men, and the special powers seem made for the silver screen (could this book have been written before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?). Ms Hearn has another life as a children's author, and all the hallmarks of her young adult writing are here-effortlessly readable prose, expert plotting, surprising twists and turns, and an immaculately conceived alternative reality. This last element is the real strength of this book. The quasi-Japanese society is exquisitely rendered: not only in the physical settings but in the way the characters behave, interact, communicate and think. The inner lives of the characters are perhaps a little underdeveloped, there's an absence of light relief and the plot changes direction a little too abruptly at the end, but the book's a veritable page-turner. Worth the hype? I'll decide after I've read volumes two and three. Andrew Wilkins is the editor of AB&P. C. 2002 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors
Adult/High School-Fleeing the slaughter of his village and pursued by Lord Iidu's warriors, Tomasu, 16, expects to die. Raised among the Hidden, he is forbidden to kill and is expected to forgive his enemies, tenets he sets aside in favor of revenge. When Otori Shigeru steps into his path, Tomasu thinks the worst; instead Shigeru kills one pursuer and seriously wounds another. Given the name Takeo by Shigeru, the grieving teen gives up speaking for a time and finds that his hearing becomes preternaturally sharp. Other strange abilities manifest themselves as well, marking him as a member of the Tribe, five families resembling ninjas. Shigeru also desires revenge upon Iidu for the loss of much of the Otori ancestral lands and the death of his younger brother. Takeo allies himself with Shigeru and accepts formal adoption. Meanwhile, Lady Shirakawa Kaede, tarnished with a reputation for bringing death to men, is contracted to marry Shigeru. These story lines converge just as Takeo's life begins to fly apart. His situation is complicated, and his unique talents and background mark him as a hero of epic proportions. Although much about this tale seems to place it in feudal Japan, Hearn states that this is an imaginary country. In this riveting first entry in a trilogy, all major characters are introduced and the various conflicts defined, but readers will have to wait for future volumes to reach the final resolution. This book should be popular with many readers, not just those who admire well-written and intriguing fantasy.-Jody Sharp, Harford County Public Library, MD Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.