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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy/Suspense in Japan-like setting
Across the Nightingale Floor is a well-paced and orchestrated historical fantasy set in an imaginary feudal Japan-like setting.
Teenage Tomasu lives in a remote mountain village among a people called "The Hidden" who are a secretive and persecuted caste. One night his village is massacred by the chief warlord, Iida. Tomasu pulls a trick and escapes into the mountains...
Published on January 14, 2004 by Jack Fitzgerald

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad
It was good, but light. For one thing, the author, who uses a pseudonym, claims she was trying to represent a fantasy world that was Japan-like without actually referring to the classes of people involved by their Japanese names and titles. So, while it was obvious that she was referring to ninja and samurai, she never used those terms, but instead used vague descriptions...
Published on April 20, 2004 by James K. Hoffman


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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy/Suspense in Japan-like setting, January 14, 2004
By 
Jack Fitzgerald "JFD" (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Across the Nightingale Floor is a well-paced and orchestrated historical fantasy set in an imaginary feudal Japan-like setting.
Teenage Tomasu lives in a remote mountain village among a people called "The Hidden" who are a secretive and persecuted caste. One night his village is massacred by the chief warlord, Iida. Tomasu pulls a trick and escapes into the mountains and is saved by another warrior lord, Otori Shigeru. Otori takes Tomasu in as his son, renames him Takeo, and the young man begins to learn the way of the warrior. It soon becomes apparent that he possesses the skills of the assassin class known as "The Tribe" which include superior hearing, stealth, invisibility and the ability to leave a "second self" behind. Later, he learns to put people to sleep.
Meanwhile, a second plot told in the third person involves Kaede, a young woman who is the daughter of a lord but held hostage to keep her family from considering an uprising. The warlords are to use Kaede as a pawn in an arranged marriage with Otori. Things get complicated because of a certain Lady Maruyama, and then Takeo's feelings toward Kaede. A little Shakespearean tragedy within a Japanese setting makes for plenty of intrigue.
Takeo makes an interesting and likable protagonist, and I found myself cheering for him and all the challenges he had to face. The side characters were also colorful, with heroic Otori Shigeru, the mysterious teacher Kenji, the doomed Lady Maruyama, jinxed Kaede, and more. You know some of them will play larger roles in the following two books.
I wondered about this book being a young adult novel, because while the language and sentence construction read fairly simply, there is graphic violence and some sex that should be for a more mature audience. The dialogue was sometimes stilted and overly formal, but that's the way it is in Japan, and for the most part Hearn makes this work. I also liked the author's choice of pseudonym, presumably after the great Japan historian Lafcadio Hearn.
I came away wanting to know more about The Hidden and The Tribe, and hope the subsequent books reveal more, because I'm eager to continue this series. I thought the first book came to a satisfying resolution, while setting us up for things to come. Across the Nightingale Floor is an enjoyable read and definitely for those interested in Japan.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MY BOOK OF THE YEAR, September 27, 2002
By 
JOHN MCLAY (Bath, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Unusually for a book with so many characters, several with strange-sounding names, Across The Nightingale Floor is remarkably easy to follow. The main narrative is rich and eventful and I for one was attracted by the incident and intrigue that was delivered early on in the opening few pages. The setting is authentic and beautiful, familiar in many ways, yet new and mysterious in others. It's a fascinating landscape and the story quite riveting. It's genuinely very difficult to put down once you've started it.
The writing is exceptional, with very few words out of place. Smooth and easy to read, the author's style is generous enough to paint the characters and scenery very well, yet clipped enough to keep the plot moving along at a steady pace. Importantly, there are no slow patches!
The book does not flinch from adult content and is certainly a mature read. It appears pitched at an adult and young adult audience simultaneously. There are numerous deaths - several beheadings, torture, cruelty and other violence. All, however, are within context and not out of place.
The strong story, appealing characters and Japanesesque setting combine incredibly strongly within Across The Nightingale Floor to produce a highly readable book that should appeal to many different-aged readers.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great fantasy for any reading fan!!, March 30, 2003
By 
Ryan Landis (Cincinnati, OH) - See all my reviews
If you like books about feudal Japan, this book is for you. It's a fascinating story that follows a young man as he grows up in the clans of Japan. This book has everything you need for a great experience, action, adventure, love, and betrayal.
I picked this book up on a whim and read four pages in and was hooked. It grabs a hold of you and you can't put it down. Not only are the characters great, with all kinds of individual plots, they all contribute to they main plot of the book. The young boy, Takeo, is taken under the protection of Lord Otori, a leader of one of the clans in Japan. Takeo joins Lord Otori after a rival clan kills his parents. From the second Takeo runs into Lord Otori in the woods the action doesn't stop. With all the twists and individual plots the end of this book leaves you wanting more. This book is also a surprisingly easy read, most of the books that I've read that are set in this time are usually hard to follow, but this book is well written and even with all the Japanese terms its easy to follow and a great read.
I highly recommend this book, not only to fans of fantasy, but also to anyone who wants to read a good book. This is one of the best books I've ever read and I am anxiously waiting for the rest of the trilogy.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars it not enough!, May 20, 2004
By 
Ben (Vancouver) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori, Book 1) (Paperback)
Not in several years have I read a book this good, and I have read most fantasy-type books out there. To tell you the truth, I have read so many books that are trash that I have grown used to, perhaps even expecting, poor quality when I read a fantasy novel. Pure drivel like Robert Newcomb's "The Fifth Sorceress" or Terry Goodkind's "The Naked Empire" are popping up like weeds these days.
But amidst the piles and piles of rubble, sometimes you find that rose of exceptional beauty. And "Across the Nightingale Floor" is that rose. It's vastly different than the usual run-of-the-mill fantasy novels, unique even.
The setting of the book takes place in a mythical Japanese-like society, though it's not a direct allusion to actual history, and it features a smattering of magic. It's a coming of age story, but not in the usual Robert Jordan type of way. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a recipe: Take the majestic backdrop of "Shogun", mix it with the cool assassin factor of Stoover's brilliant "Hero's Die", imbue it with the oriental mysticism of Eric Lustbader's "Ninja", then toss in a fabulous plot, superlative characterization, a good dose of pathos, a chunk of romance and you have what I consider to be one of the best books, ever.
If you have read "A Song of Fire of Ice" fifteen times, spun through the "Wheel of Time" more times than Nynaeve pulls her braid, consumed every Hobb novel, then give this book a shot; it won't disappoint.
It's a sweeping epic of love, betrayal, loyalty, magic, and a high quest for revenge, and so damn fine a read you will want to lick the cover when you're done. I HIGHLY recommend you check this book out.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, April 20, 2004
This review is from: Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori, Book 1) (Paperback)
It was good, but light. For one thing, the author, who uses a pseudonym, claims she was trying to represent a fantasy world that was Japan-like without actually referring to the classes of people involved by their Japanese names and titles. So, while it was obvious that she was referring to ninja and samurai, she never used those terms, but instead used vague descriptions or descriptive words. To me, it seemed a little forced sometimes. Also, I felt as if the book was written for someone in about the 8th Grade. Of course, USA Today is written at that level, so maybe I'm just biased towards the more well read.
In any case, those two small issues aside, it was a good book. The story focuses on an orphan who is taken in first by a great lord in exile or disgrace, depending on your point of view, and, later, by a clan of enigmatic mystics who are basically ninja. There are numerous plot twists of varying degree, though none are too surprising to the well-read. The themes are classically Japanese and the author is unabashedly enamored with Japanese culture. In fact, on her website, she cites a trip to Japan as the inspiration for the novel. Well, series, actually. This is the first book in the Tales of the Otori series and the last has just recently been published.
As a fantasy book goes, Across the Nightingale Floor is rather similar to any of a number of others, but as a novel about a fantasy Japan, which is not historical fiction, it stands virtually alone. In fact, I haven't seen a book similar since I read Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds, which is about an Ancient China that never really was. And, though I have to admit Lian Hearn could have done more with her work, I still liked the first book enough to buy, and read, the rest of the series.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine and Fantastic Tale Set in a Reimagined Japan, February 3, 2004
This review is from: Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori, Book 1) (Paperback)
Nicely done and fast moving, this tale conjures up an imaginary medieval Japanese world that is both convincing and absorbing . . . even if it never really existed.

Recounting the coming of age of young Tomasu, renamed Takeo by his heroic protector Otori Shigeru, it takes our young hero from the idyllic life of a secret religious cult hidden deep in the mountains, a group eerily reminiscent of early Japanese Christians, into a much larger world of samurai, assassins, and political intrigue as Takeo discovers his special talents, the legacy of a mysterious father. Induced to develop his skills as a tool for his mentor, the kindly if stern Shigeru, young Takeo learns to control his special abilities and to love the samurai Otori clan which has adopted him.

But the world is quaking all around him as his deadly enemy, the warlord Iida, closes a trap designed to complete his conquest of the three lands. Only Shigeru and his allies stand in Iida's way, but Iida forces Shigeru to step into a deadly trap. Joined by Takeo, Shigeru advances with eyes open into the jaws of Iida's waiting lion, all the while planning the enemy warlord's undoing. But there are other claims on Takeo, claims which may yank him away from Shigeru at the moment he's most needed.

The story was a bit predicable but compelling nonetheless, even when you can guess where the next turn will be. At the same time, the ambience of old Japan felt remarkably right. As Takeo struggles with the need to avenge the slaughter of his own clan (the mysterious group known as the Hidden) by Iida's minions, and the demands on his loyalty from his newly adopted clan (the Otori) vs. his blood ties to the mysterious Tribe (a group of families with special, almost magical skills), he must make a decision to risk all and save Shigeru and the young woman he has come to love or accept the Tribe's apparently unreasonable demands on him.

Although the final outcome is never in much doubt, how we get there is. And it's fascinating to watch it all unfold. In the end, this is an action tale set in an exotic world . . . nothing more. But it is enjoyable for that.

SWM
author of The King of Vinland's Saga
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't Wait For The Sequel!!, December 17, 2002
By A Customer
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This is an amazing book! The language is simple but lyrical, the story is captivating, and the pace is riveting. I could hardly put it down and I hated to finish it. I don't know if you can say more about a book than that. I have bought it for a friend for Christmas and I am recommending it to everyone I know. It is a rare book that does that to me. It starts with beautiful language and develops characters that you come to really care about. Read this book and then go "sell" it to your friends!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, lush, absorbing., February 4, 2003
By 
LW Jolly (Reading, Berkshire UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Across The Nightingale Floor is a young-adult crossover novel with some fantasy, but the supernatural is used with a VERY deft & sparing hand.
A young man (Takeo) whose entire village is wiped out by feudal warlord finds out that there is more to his parentage, and his talents, than he could have guessed. The writing is lush, the story set in feudal Japan, and the characters are both charming & believable. Best of all, it doesn't fall into the common trap of "historical non-Western people behaving just like 21st century Western characters." Takeo has a strong sense of honor and obligation that makes you admire him even when he's making hasty or frighteningly selfless decisions. There is a very strong sense of both place and time, and beauty in the middle of horror and violence. The action doesn't stop in this book; it will completely draw you in. As I said, I'm in love.
This is not a story for very young children, as it contains many scenes of violent death, descriptions of torture, and also a couple of very tastefully done sex scenes. Nothing is superfluous or sensationalistic, but the reader is not shielded from the realities of feudal life and war. Although this book is the first in a series, it ends satisfyingly enough. I believe that with the quality of both writing and storytelling, this book & its sequels will become young-adult favorites, like The Earthsea books or His Dark Materials.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!!, October 28, 2002
By 
"abnormalbooks" (Groton, MA United States) - See all my reviews
Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. 2002 by Riverhead Books (PenguinPutnam). ISBN 1-57322-225-9.
This is a thoroughly entertaining and beautifully written novel. It was first brought to my attention by a review in Book magazine. Classified as either young adult or fantasy (depending on the reviews), I thought it was neither. I am far from my `young adult' years and there are no trolls, dragons, wizards or witches; no hobbits nor elves; not even, as the September 2002 issue of Locus magazine review of the book may suggest, magic. It is an adventure; a coming of age story taking place in the likes of feudal Japan. As is the author's name, Across the Nightingale Floor is simply fiction. Perhaps borderline Speculative Fiction, and perhaps not so simple. The only magiks are those of the Tribe, a secret sect who now hire themselves out assassins to the highest bidder.
This is a wonderful read. Hearn's prose is compact yet extremely visual. You can set the book aside, reluctantly, for a few days, return to it and the entire story leaps back to mind and imagination. There is hardly a single paragraph that does not elicit a dramatic image. I marveled at Hearn's ability as a writer to conjure such images so vividly. I will not reveal any of the storyline, but suffice it to say Across the Nightingale Floor was very satisfying. The conclusion was complete, though surprising, and enough `loose ends' remain to make me wait for the next installment as soon as it comes out. R.D.Kedd. A.B.Normal Books.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Prepared to be Amazed!, August 26, 2002
By 
Seriously, you need to buy two copies; one to read and one to keep very, very safe because this book is the start of something big. Lian Hearn has crafted a story so artfully woven it will leave you breathless. She blends the epic scope of Tolkien, the coming of age of Harry Potter, and the heartstopping adventure of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Oh, and just for good measure there's a touch of romance. This is one of the most remarkable books I've read in a long time and to think, theres still two more coming....
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Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori, Book 1)
Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori, Book 1) by Lian Hearn (Paperback - June 3, 2003)
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