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The Harsh Cry of the Heron: The Last Tale of the Otori (Tales of the Otori, Book 4) Paperback – June 5, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews
Book 4 of 5 in the Tales of the Otori Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Australian writer Gillian Rubinstein, writing as Hearn, concludes her bestselling Otori fantasy epic (Across the Nightingale Floor, etc.) with another magical tale of life and death in feudal Japan. Thanks to his enlightened leadership, 15 years of peace and prosperity have passed since Otori Takeo united the Three Countries, but his enemies continue to plot their revenge—including the Tribe, a ninja-like group of assassins, and the duplicitous Lord Zenko, one of Takeo's retainers. Perhaps the greatest threat, however, is the prophecy of a holy woman that Takeo will die only at his son's hand; his only son, an unacknowledged bastard, is being raised by his sworn enemy Kikuta Akio, the head of a Tribe family. With his beautiful (and legitimate) daughter and heir Shigeko by his side, Takeo must navigate these treacherous shoals to save his lands and his legacy from destruction. Hearn seamlessly fuses fact and fantasy to create a sprawling, bewitching realm of magic. There's enough background in this fourth installment that a new reader will have no problem following along, and fans will be heartened to know that this "Last Tale" will be followed in 2007 by a prequel. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The Otori saga concludes in this gripping novel, set in the years after the previous book in the series, Brilliance of the Moon (2004). Otori Takeo has brought peace to the Three Countries and rules them with a benevolent but firm hand; however, his old enemies still bear him malice and continue to plot against him. Lord Arai joins forces with Takeo's bitter brother-in-law, Zenko, hoping to bring down Takeo, while the emperor of the region has dispatched a deadly warlord to attack Takeo, who knows there is only one person who can kill him: a prophecy has decreed that only his son can end his life. While Takeo and his wife, Kaede, only have daughters, Takeo does have a child that Kaede doesn't know about, 16-year-old Hisao, who has been raised by Lord Arai to hate Takeo. To ensure his daughter Shigeko's reign, Takeo decides to try to make peace with the emperor and even offers Shigeko's hand in marriage to the warlord Saga. The Otori saga gets better with each book, and this is the most absorbing entry in the series, complete with intrigue, magic, romance, and action. A perfect final chapter to the story that began in Across the Nightingale Floor (2002). Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tales of the Otori, Book 4
  • Paperback: 572 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st edition (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594482578
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594482571
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Alls I can say is that if you liked the first three books in the Tales Of The Otori... leave it there. Let that be the end, and that is what Lian Hearn should have done also.

While I have absolutly no qualms with her writing style, which is quick and easy to follow, not complicated with an absurd amount of details and subplots as some other fantasy writers are prone to do; the path she leads her characters down is engaging and exciting... until the last three or four chapters.

I am simply amazed at how thouroughly the author "drops the ball." If you liked the characters in the previous books don't read this... she makes you hate them. Everything in the last couple of chapters is hurried and unfulfilling. Main characters make extreme and unrealistic decisions, all just to help rush to the overly dramatic sense of tragedy in the end.

I can tell that the author was trying to create a compeling, tragic tale, but fails misserably, probably due to deadlines and print dates. All the loose ends and sub-storylines are basically summed up in a brief retelling in the end, the author couldn't even take the time to finish them properly. The end of one of the main plots that continues thoughout the entire series, the death of the MAIN hero IS SUMMED UP IN THE END!!! I was so mad. I had looked forward to this book ever since I heard it was to be written, since I liked the other books so well, but was extremely dissapointed. I gave two stars because the author's writing style is still enjoyable, but I personally will probably never read another of her books if this is how she chooses to end a series...

-T
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I entirely agree with what "Avid Reader" wrote in the first review of this book, quote: "All I can say is that if you liked the first three books in the Tales Of The Otori... leave it there. Let that be the end, and that is what Lian Hearn should have done also." The reviewer from "Book List" gave it a good write-up, that's marred by the fact she gets some of the main characters' names wrong (she mixes up Arai and Akio for example). I wonder whether she actually read the book.

The Tales of the Otori were supposed to be a trilogy, and should NEVER have become a tetralogy. This fourth instalment was probably written under the publisher's pressure due to the success of the first three, but Lian Hearn ran out of ideas. All she does in this book is some filling-up, some mental acrobatics and some not believable plot twists. As "Avid Reader" said, she manages to make you hate people you used to love, starting with Kaede who's such a likeable person, strong, smart, resilient and understanding in the first three books and, in just a few short pages, becomes an irrational shrew, not to mention a betrayer of both her husband and her people - Her second turnabout and her fate at the very end are psychologically and politically incomprehensible. Some of the plot twists make no sense whatsoever, and the way the prophecy about Takeo's death is fulfilled is just plain cheating. Not to mention that the reason he dies for is nonsensical. Takeo (who, like his adopted father Shigeru, has this deplorable habit of sparing his enemies' lives when he has them at his mercy, but is a strong warrior and a good ruler) becomes this wishy-washy guy, totally undone by... well, not to give too much away, by the result of his aforementioned leniency towards his enemies.
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Format: Paperback
It is very rare to come to the end of something that I have enjoyed so much, to find myself so disappointed (with regard to the 'trilogy' and this book). The dark undertones that are present from the start of this book,eventually dominate to a sickening extent. I had a quick look at the author's website and she herself raised the question of whether or not the final book of the Otori Series (and the prequel that I have not yet read) would add or detract from the trilogy. I am very sad to say that I believe in the case of The Harsh Cry it detracts. Where the trilogy was the champion of love, the final book twists it into the opposite. Love will only end in pain and destruction, is the message I received. The trilogy was one of my favorite set of books, so I am bitterly disappointed with what she does to the characters in this, with one character in particular. If she wanted to write a similar book with a darker theme she should not have attached it to this trilogy. Obviously, not everyone will feel this way and I do very much enjoy her writing style, but I have lost faith with the author as a result of this book.
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Format: Hardcover
The Three Countries have experienced sixteen years of peace and prosperity under the rule of Otori Takeo and his wife, Kaede. Merchants are flourishing, farmers are reaping good harvests, people are free to worship as they please, and there is an all-around air of content. But under the surface, political machinations are at play. In addition to the threat he has always faced from the Kikuta Tribe family, Takeo must also watch for betrayal from the Arai. And now the sudden arrival of foreigners brining new goods and a new religion, combined with the rise of a powerful new warlord sanctioned by the Emperor, threaten to ruin all that Takeo has strove for.

I greatly enjoyed the first three Otori novels, but I enjoyed "The Harsh Cry of the Heron" even more. It is more mature, the tone is darker, and there are deeper plots and subplots at play. Takeo is older, wiser, and at the same time more careful and careless. It is fascinating to see the changes in his character, but at the same time realize that, in many ways, he is still the same Takeo of the prior books. The same cannot be said of Kaede. While she does display some of the strength and intelligence readers are used to from her, she also uncharacteristically seems to fall prey to superstitions and petty desires and jealousies. This was one of the reasons I did not give the book a full five stars. Of all the characters in "Heron", I have to admit that Kaede was the one that disappointed me the most.

Many of the other characters readers knew are also back: Shizuka, Dr. Ishida, Gemba, Hiroshi, Taku, Zenko, Hana, Akio. The most important new characters are probably Takeo's children: Shigeko (Takeo's eldest daughter and heir), Maya and Miki (twins), and Hisao (who was raised by Akio).
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