Tomasu is a boy, an innocent member of a village in which the Hidden live peacefully. The Hidden believe that all men are equal before God – putting themselves on an equal footing with the greatest members of the warrior class. For this dangerous and insulting belief, they are hated.
They refuse to kill men or animals, so when the warlord Iida Sadamu comes to massacre Tomasu’s village, no-one fights back. Tomasu is fleeing three men when he is rescued by a stranger, another warlord, Otori Shigeru – equally unexpected in his small, simple world.
Otori Shigeru adopts him, and teaches him the skills of both the warrior class and of his heritage – not his heritage as one of the Hidden, but his genetic heritage as a member of the Tribe: assassins with certain unique abilities. Tomasu – now Lord Otori Takeo – has those abilities in abundance, and he knows very well that Otori Shigeru is not the only man who wants to lay claim to him.
This is the first book in the Otori trilogy (I've also reviewed the prequel), and it is beautifully written; powerful and tragic. If you like characters bound up in their code of honour and struggling to do what is right – or the pain of forbidden love – then these books are for you. The (fictional) historical period (similar to feudal Japan) is beautifully realised, and the conflicts of Otori Takeo and the other characters run deep.
A nightingale floor is a wooden floor deliberately designed to creak, so that someone sleeping beyond the floor is sure to hear someone approaching before they can get close enough to kill.
Rating: M/MA (violence, including sexual violence – never gratuitous, but it’s there)
Free sample (opening paragraph):
%%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.’
. . . . . I thought it was a manner of speaking.%%