Across The Nightingale Floor (Lian Hearn)

acrossthenightingalefloorWhen I finished Lian Hearn’s first Tale of the Otori series (I won’t be going any further), I felt as though I’d been eating Hershey’s chocolate when I expected at least Lindt. Waiter, take this away and bring me some real food! Reading shouldn’t be hard work. Just skimming I struggled to stop my eyes from glazing over in utter boredom. The narrators each sound exactly the same. This is so lazy, research-wise too. Inserting Christianity into this mock up Japan was not wise either. Nor were the random earthquakes every ten pages or so.

The worst issue of this book is a promise of great historical fiction setting, that turns out to be a fantasy one, loosely inspired by the Japanese culture. Another thing is the choice of protagonist and main plot – the first one is a typical cliché (teenager who turns out be the most important in the entire world, who holds immense powers), the latter – a quite predictable story of vengeance and rather cringing romance. An abnormally low level of emotion is expressed by Takeo, our hero, despite what should’ve been some harrowing scenes in the beginning. He loses his entire family during the massacre of his village. All witnessed by him. Balancing ‘show’ and ‘tell’ is a common problem and unfortunately there’s far too much ‘tell’ than there really should be. Then there’s the instalove problem that pissed me off.

You can tell the author is a Westerner who relied on Google for her research. Long conversations, flimsy explanations and detailed summaries are shortcuts used here, contributing to a severe lack of depth concerning Takeo’s character and a level of unreadability to his chapters as I was unable to connect or sympathize with him. Different story when it comes to the heroine, Kaede. She is presented with a feminist, sympathetic nature, giving the game away that the author is a typical modern misandrist. Usually I’m an ardent lover of politics and dastardly machinations, but I wasn’t in this case. I had zero invested in the plot and no side ever revealed itself to be a favourable one to champion.

As a book, it failed to seduce me. It could still have turned out to be an OK adventure story but there is just one more unbearable thing – the language. Talk about forced, while aspiring to be the characteristic, ethereal Japanese narration. Hearn’s is merely comical. The problem is that her storytelling is distant and flat, which gave me little emotional connection to the characters and thus less interest in the outcome of the story. Hearn seems to be striving for an elegant, spare style like that of a Japanese screen or garden. But what she misses are the details: colours, flavours, tactile sensations. Fight scenes are over in a few sentences; journeys are pared down to a couple of paragraphs. Only recommended to boring people.



  1. Loved your chocolate analogy, sounds like you’re right on the money! I’ll definitely be giving this book a miss. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! Its nice I can always count on you to leave cheerful comments. 🙂


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