Across The Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
Reading Level: 14+
The debut novel of Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori series, Across the Nightingale Floor, is set in a feudal Japan on the edge of the imagination. The tale begins with young Takeo, a member of a subversive and persecuted religious group, who returns home to find his village in flames. He is saved, not by coincidence, by the swords of Lord Otori Shigeru and thrust into a world of warlords, feuding clans, and political scheming. As Lord Otori's ward, he discovers he is a member by birth of the shadowy "Tribe," a mysterious group of assassins with supernatural abilities.
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Hearn sets his tale in an imaginary realm that is and isn't feudal Japan. This device serves the author well as he is able to play with familiar archetypes--samurai, Shogun, and ninja--without falling prey to the pitfalls of history. The novel fills a unique niche that is at once period piece and fantasy novel. Hearn unfolds the tale of Takeo and the conflicting forces around him in a deliberate manner that leads to a satisfying conclusion and sets the stage for the rest of the series.