Sunday, 30 December 2012

YA Book Review: 'Across the Nightingale Floor' by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor
(Tales of the Otori #1)
by Lian Hearn

Published: January 1st, 2002
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Source: Bought From Amazon
Format: E-Book
Pages: 287

Cover Art

I LOVE this version of the cover. The Grudge anyone!?

Plot Synopsis

In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills. When Takeo's village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor and to his own unimaginable destiny...

My Rating:

First Lines:

'My mother used to threaten to tear me into eight pieces if I knocked over the water bucket, or pretended not to hear her calling me to come home as the dusk thickened and the cicadas' shrilling increased. I would hear her voice, rough and fierce, echoing through the lonely valley. 'Where's that wretched boy? I'll tear him apart when he gets back.'

Pocket-Size Review

Ooo I was loving the brutality of this book; you never felt that the main characters were safe and I loved that; it added so much tension!

Highs: Brutally violent and beautifully written.
Lows: The love story wasn't the best and the characters names/place names got very confusing for my simple brain!


Fantasy has been good to me this year. From first-class YA fantasy such as Seraphina and Shadow and Bone to wonderous high fantasy in the form of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, I have read some serious gooduns. This one did not let the side down.

What I loved most about Across the Nightingale Floor was the unflinching brutality with which the author approached his characters and the way his characters spoke and acted. The main character is singled out for his 'soft heart and compassion' which are seen as weaknesses and anomalies in this world. To feel pity and mercy is not something which is welcomed or approved of. Death is not flinched away from, and often the characters speak of their own deaths or taking their own lives as though it were an easy matter. I found this approach refreshing, and liked how rough and unsqueamish most of the characters were! 

I think it is a common trope of fiction set in Japan that characters care much more about honour than anything else, and are therefore much more willing to take their own lives than, for example, escape and run away, for they would see that as bringing dishonour on themselves and their family, which is worse than death. Another YA fantasy that I read recently, Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott , had a similar vein running through it. Also, forgiveness is not prized as much and revenge is much more accepted and sought after. I liked the way that cold-blooded revenge motivated this novel; it is always an exciting force in a book that makes you both side with the revenge-seeker and pity them for the usually tragic reasons which explain why they are so bent on vengeance.

This novel mainly follows the stories of two characters: Kaede and Takeo. Kaede is a young girl who has been held hostage for 10 years and is a victim of the patriarchy that barters with women as though they were goods to buy and sell as they choose. Kaede is strong and lovely and definitely captured my interest right from her first appearance. She is not humble but proud and knows she deserves to be treated better than she has been which actually made a nice change from all the irritating female protagonists who befriend the servants and always take the moral high ground. I liked Kaede's rage and her pride; she felt like a female character who could really take matters into her own hands and grasp a little power for herself. 

Takeo is a boy who is just starting to discover the power that he possesses, and his superhuman hearing was one of the simplest yet most beautiful and useful qualities I have read about. No need for complex powers when you can simply hear everything that goes on around you and become attuned to slight disturbances. Takeo is the boy who eventually faces the Nightingale Floor, a wooden floor designed to creak and sing when one crosses it to protect its owner from intruders, and his story had me consistently on the edge of my seat. When he and Kaede's paths cross, I forgave the insta-love because this book is all about passion and following your natural instincts, so it seemed to fit into the book. Kaede is also prone to the occasional feminist statement regarding the state of a world in which men hold all the power which made me forgive her even more.

Overall, this book was simple yet beautiful. You will read it in a flash and probably have a good cry at the end. If only all YA fantasy was this poignant and classy. 

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: I am already reading the sequel Grass for his Pillow.

Memorable Quotes: 

'Shame, however, was what I felt, seeping through me as though it turned my white bones black'

'I must hide my power among men', she replied, 'or they will not hesitate to crush me.'

Three Words to Describe this Book: Gorgeous, Vengeful, Brutal.

But Don't Take My Word For It...

  • Blog Reviews of  'Across the Nightingale Floor': 

'Across the Nightingale Floor is a novel of less than three hundred pages, yet is a story of epic proportions as it encompasses the complications of war, power, loyalty, betrayal, revenge, true love and the duty of marriage as the lives of numerous individuals are intertwined through blood and or obligation. Ms. Lian Hearn has an amazing talent to not only bring her characters to life, but also the culture and landscape. The emotions and visuals are so vivid, that I truly felt swept away and submerged into the world of Across The Nightingale Floor.'

'The writing was lovely, and very good at conveying the seriousness of the drama without getting overblown, but plot itself never really surprised me, at least not until the very end… and then it wasn’t a particularly satisfying surprise. It did intrigue me enough to make me want to check out the sequels, since quite a bit was left unresolved; hopefully I’ll find something in the next book to really get excited about.'


  1. Well,this is the first time I hear of this series, but it sounds very different and unique. Love the quotes your provided and I absolutely love strong, kick ass heroines, with some pride, of course.
    Liked your review
    Your reader,

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