Brilliance of the Moon: Lian Hearn

★★★

The Tales of the Otori: Book III

Spurred on by the desire to find out what happens, and by James’s comment on the last Otori post, I moved on to Brilliance of the Moon: the third and final instalment in Hearn’s series. To some extent it lived up to my expectations, as Takeo is confronted with the five prophesied battles that will shape his future (‘four to win and one to lose‘). The plot picked up its heels as we approached the conclusion; though the actual battle scenes felt rushed and anaemic after all the build-up. And that wasn’t the only problem. The characterisation still had issues and I was left feeling, somehow, unsatisfied. In short, this has been an enjoyable but ultimately flawed series, rich in concept but not always completely successful in execution.

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Grass for his Pillow: Lian Hearn

★★★

Tales of the Otori: Book II

After an unconscionable delay of more than a year, I’ve finally got round to reading the second book in this appealing Japanese historical fantasy series. While I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first one, this was due to the typical problems facing the middle book of a trilogy. The characters have been separated: the grand opening salvo has already been made; and I presume that Hearn has saved all the set-piece battles for the final novel. Instead, we follow the young lovers Takeo and Kaede on their diverging paths, as Kaede learns to make her way in a male-dominated world, and Takeo seeks to hone his supernatural powers under the guidance of the Tribe.

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Across the Nightingale Floor: Lian Hearn

★★★★

Tales of the Otori: Book I

I’ve wanted to read this for years. Although I only visited Tokyo last year, I’ve long been interested in certain aspects of Japanese history: the samurai, especially, and the codes of honour and nobility that governed their society. I was intrigued by Hearn’s world, which is inspired by medieval Japan and promised to be refreshingly different from the pseudo-European fantasy norm. And yet, when I began reading yesterday morning, it was with some trepidation. After all, when you’ve looked forward to reading something for so long, there’s always a fear that it might not be as good as you expected. Fortunately that fear was unwarranted. The book lived up to its reputation and dragged me, wide-eyed and wondering, into a thrilling tale of revenge, intrigue and forbidden love.

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