Lian Hearn, Author . Riverhead $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-57322-225-9

Mystical powers and martial arts rampage through this pseudo-Japanese story, the first of a projected trilogy by newcomer Hearn, with an abandon that's head spinning. From the entrance of the 16-year-old hero, Takeo, as he is about to be swatted down by a mounted horseman and the way he can become invisible or make a duplicate of himself when he needs to, to the head-rolling decapitations that follow interminably, the impossible becomes the semiplausible. Takeo, who joins the Otori clan, is a religious outcast, and also, surprisingly, a member of "the Tribe," a secretive race that has unusual mental and physical powers that lend them an unworldly air. Takeo learns how to control his burgeoning talents just in time to avenge the death of his mentor, while politics and clan rivalries lead to an increasing amount of graphic bloodshed. Takeo enjoys a few blissful moments with the fetching Lady Kaede Shirakawa but, unfortunately, she is not destined to be his, now or in the future. For fans of Japanese samurai warrior fantasy, this novel is right in the ballpark, filled with swords, clan in-fighting, love affairs, invisibility and magical Ninja powers. However, for those looking for something with a bit of depth, the author tends to gloss over the details of why and how. Takeo learns the craft of the Tribe offstage and all the political maneuvering that goes into the clan warfare is rather murky. Hopefully, the next book will show what Hearn is really capable of. (Sept. 2)

Forecast:With movie rights sold to Universal Studios and foreign rights sold in 11 countries, this one seems a sure bet for genre bestseller lists.

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-56511-710-5
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