THE STERKARM HANDSHAKE
Susan Price (Scholastic, 1998) ISBN: 0590543016
The Sterkarm Handshake is yet another book I read in high school and always intended to buy, but never got around to it until quite recently. I remembered the novel as unusual and not popular, though at the time it felt it had been written for me — a tale specifically for a small subset of nerdy high-schoolers who liked history, historical linguistics, and time travel. But I returned to the books, for The Sterkarm Handshake is the first of a duology, knowing they were also rather flawed. I was interested to find out, as an adult reader with the benefit of historical hindsight, why these books did not succeed. To the best of my knowledge, neither book in the duology is in print any longer.
HEAVEN’S NET IS WIDE
Lian Hearn (Hachette, 2007) ISBN: 978 0 7336 2144 4
At last, we’re here, Heaven’s Net is Wide, the prequel to the Tales of the Otori trilogy. And, it should be added, I am sufficiently backlogged that I feel comfortable in saying my reviews will now be a weekly event. You may celebrate in whatever way you feel appropriate.
THE HARSH CRY OF THE HERON
Lian Hearn (Hachette, 2006) ISBN: 13 978 0 733621 26 0
The Harsh Cry of the Heron is set some 14 years after the close of the original Tales of the Otori trilogy. The story features Takeo’s three daughters to Kaede, Shigeko, Miki and Maya, and his illegitimate son Hisao, as well as Takeo and several other of the characters we met in the previous trilogy. Takeo and Kaede have a united the Three Kingdoms as co-rulers, protecting the Hidden from persecution and driving the mercenarial Tribe into hiding. Unfortunately, the seeds of conflict planted over the past 14 years are coming to a head. Takeo must tread carefully if he wants to maintain everything he and his wife have struggled for.
BRILLIANCE OF THE MOON
Lian Hearn (Hodder, 2004, ISBN: 0-7336-1564-3)
Brilliance of the Moon is the last in Lian Hearn’s original Tales of the Otori trilogy. It takes place shortly after the conclusion of Grass for his Pillow. Takeo and Kaede have married in secret, against the wishes of their protector, the warlord Arai Zenko. Otori and Tribe forces both threaten Takeo and he is forced to flee with Kaede to Maruyama. Events conspire against them and the pair, after setting up their ambitious plans for the future, are separated.
GRASS FOR HIS PILLOW
Lian Hearn (Hodder, 2003) ISBN: 0 7336 1563 5
Taking up directly after the events of Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for his Pillow finds Kaede in a state of hypnotic sleep and Takeo working for the ninja-like Tribe which has claimed him for their own. Neither is now happy with their lot. Takeo has sworn himself to the Tribe, as well as to an up-and-coming warlord, but desires only to honour Otori Shigeru’s wishes that he should claim leadership of the Otori clan. Kaede, meanwhile, longs for Takeo. She is certain he will return to her, yet has her own doubts. Continue reading
ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR (TALES OF THE OTORI BOOK ONE)
Lian Hearn* (Hodder, 2002) ISBN: 0 7336 1565 1
As a child and teenager, for no discernible reason, I was a total weeabo. I loved Japan. I loved Japanese clothing, I loved learning about Japanese language and culture, and I was determined to go to Japan as soon as I could. I don’t know where this obsession originated. The obvious contenders are Sailor Moon and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, a tv series and book respectively, which were likely my first encounters with Japan–even though I believe the latter was written by an American. I’ve been to Japan twice now, and I’ve also made a conscious effort to ramp down my adoration because I’ve learned that fetishising cultures like that is not a cool or respectful thing to do. Nonetheless, Across the Nightingale Floor, first in the Tales of the Otori trilogy**, represents a perfect union of three of my great loves–Japanese culture and history (albeit in a fictionalised Japan-like society), fantasy, and beautiful writing.