cover image Nightingale/The Hc

Nightingale/The Hc

Kara Dalkey. Ace Books, $16.95 (221pp) ISBN 978-0-441-57973-0

Transferring Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the nightingale from China to Japan and transforming the bird into a young woman who plays the flute causes the story to lose some of its enchantment. Although Dalkey (The Curse of the Sagamore) authentically evokes Japanese formality and ceremony, the hypocrisy of status-hungry officials becomes the focus of this novella. The emperor himself, as dupe of conflicting forces, is sympathetically drawn, and Uguisu, the flute-player who wins his heart, is sweet and docile, hiding her beauty, as custom ordains, behind a screen. A charming diversion is provided by the emperor's cat, Lady Hinata, herself the familiar of a goddess and rescuer of the banished Uguisu, who has been superseded, as in the original tale, by a bejeweled wanton. There are too many deities, however, too much inflated languagethat, unfortunately, deteriorates into bathosand too few fully fleshed characters to allow the fancy to take flight. (May)