Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow and Brilliance of the Moon were first published in the early 2000s. Since the late 2000s however they have lain largely unloved upon a bookshelf in my house – that is until a few weeks ago when I decided to delve once more into the fictional landscape of feudal Japan.
Within the first few pages of Across the Nightingale Floor, we are introduced to the trilogy’s protagonist Tomasu, later known as Takeo. Whilst exploring the mountains surrounding his home, he returns to find it under attack from a group of men known as the Tohan, and members of his family brutally murdered. Tomasu is rescued by Lord Shigeru of the Otori and so begins Takeo’s new existence as a persecuted member of the Hidden, a ancient line that possesses unusual talents, and the controversial adopted son of the Otori family…
Although the books are pitched as YA novels, Hearn’s narrative contains a lot of complex and adult themes -the trilogy deals with violence, persecution, betrayal, love, religion, controlling relationships and death, to name but a few. In this respect, Hearn is to be commended; the narrative doesn’t shy away from these topics, nor does it flinch whilst doing so.
Re-reading these books, I realised that I’d forgotten just how good they were. The mix of Japanese feudal history and fantasy (*not the wizard kind) is incredibly interesting, but more importantly they play incredibly well off of one another. At no point is the narrative dull, and the further you read the harder it becomes to put down. This is partly due to the narrative, but largely down to the reader’s investment in the protagonists and how they will fare against the forces that join against them.
If you perhaps dismissed the trilogy before, I urge you not to make the same mistake again. Hearn’s intricate world is worth discovering, and I doubt you’ll be disappointed!