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Lian Hearn is the pseudonym for the writer Gillian Rubinstein, currently living in Australia, who has a lifelong interest in Japan, has lived there, and speaks Japanese. All five books in the Tales of the Otori series--Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow, Brilliance of the Moon, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, and Heaven's Net is Wide--are available now from Riverhead Books. Don't miss the related series, The Tale of Shikanoko.
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
"Satisfyingly rich in incident yet admirably spare in the telling...Hearn has created a world I anticipate returning to with pleasure."Â The New York Times Book Review"The most compelling novel to have been published this year."Â The Times (London) "The most extraordinary novel...The passion and rapture of this story is so compelling that it's almost worth delaying your holiday for."Â The Independent on Sunday (UK) "Complex...fast-paced, arousing adventure reminiscent of Arthurian legend that's told with all the urgency of a modern-day thriller."Â Book Magazine "Across the Nightingale Floor is as exciting a debut as any in recent yearspart Shogun, part Lord of the Flies and entirely enchanting."Â Milwaukee Journal Sentinel