Backlist Review: Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Monday, November 2, 2015
Title: Across the Nightingale Floor
Author: Lian Hearn
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Tales of the Otori #1
Pages: 305
Published: 2002
Source: purchased
Rating: 1/5

In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills. When Takeo's village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor—and to his own unimaginable destiny...

An international bestseller, Across the Nightingale Floor is the first book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn.

This had a lot of potential and the premise is an excellent one. Japan is a country rich with history and unique culture. It's a vibrant place and has been for centuries, which is why it's such a shame to see the hollow and inaccurate version on display here in Across the Nightingale Floor.

  • stilted dialogue and flat characters dominate the book
  • the pseudo-Japanese aspects feel more like lazy research and lack of care especially when...
  • the narrative misuses the importance and meaning of the tea service, the bowing/social hierarchy that shaped Japan, etc.
  • the insertion of Christianity into even a faux-version Japan is not awesome or accurate
  • there are awkward tense shifts from third to first for different narrators
  • the narrators each sound exactly the same despite different backgrounds, genders, tenses
  • ridiculous case of "eyes meet and love blooms passionately" instalove

This book had promise but squandered nearly all of it. Kaede is wasted here. Takeo is flat and boring; their instalove is unnecessary and unbelievable. His entire character is based on a few characteristics and it shows. There's no depth here. It's hard to care about what's going on and to whom if the characters themselves don't engender interest, sympathy, empathy, hatred.

I am beyond disappointed in a series that I had been looking forward to reading. It's been highly recc'd and reviewed by others but this was not a good book for me. It maybe historical fiction but it's more on the fiction side than the historical side.



  1. Oh no, I own this. I need to weed this from my collection because that all sounds awful. I hope I remember to do that when I get home. :(

    1. I was really bummed. I had hope it would improve as I went but it just got less and less engaging.


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