Reviews of Across the Nightingale Floor (2002)
Review by mojosmom (2004-04-27)
Tomasu's family were members of a persecuted religion, the hidden. When he is fifteen, his village is attacked and wiped out, but he is saved by Lord Otari Shigeru, who adopts him, renaming him Takeo.. At the same time, certain unusual abilities, heretofore latent in him, appear, and it is discovered that his true birth was to the Tribe, a people with preternatural hearing, the ability to split themselves in two, to become invisible. These skills have stood them in good stead as assassins. It is not the future Takeo envisions for himself, especially after he lays eyes on the beautiful Lady Shirakawa Kaede.
He meets her as he is accompanying Shigeru, who is to marry her to cement an alliance between his clan, the Otori, and the Tohan clan, led by Iida Sadamu, the man who attacked Takeo's village and against whom he swore vengeance. Shigeru, for his part, is in love with Lady Murayama, who returns his love. He has agreed to marry Kaede in exchange for being allowed to adopt Takeo, and with the intent of using the marriage as a pretext for getting into Lord Iida's stronghold.
Another lord, Arai, is massing an army to attack Iida's castle, and Takeo will use his skill to cross the nightingale floor in silence, and kill Iida. But things go badly awry when Takeo is kidnapped by members of the Tribe. Lady Murayama and her daughter are killed trying to escape the castle, Shigeru is captured and tortured and left to die. Takeo manages to retrieve him, and help him to an honorable death, and Kaede kills Iida when he tries to rape her. She and Takeo consummate their love, and the citadel falls to Arai, but Takeo must leave Kaede and join the Tribe, in fulfillment of a promise.
While set in an imaginary country, and with elements of fantasy, this book is nevertheless a beautifully written evocation of ancient Japan, its clan wars, its social structure, its arts, its religion.