GRASS FOR HIS PILLOW: Tales of the Otori: Book Two
The pseudonymous Hearn's second thrilling installment of her Tales of the Otori trilogy (after 2002's Across the Nightingale Floor) is once again set in a magic-haunted version of medieval Japan where no one wields unchallenged authority and no one is safe. The swirl of treacherous, shifting clan alliances threatens to overwhelm young lovers and aristocrats Takeo and Kaede. Separated throughout most of the action, the two must develop their talents while trying to maintain their integrity. Takeo possesses superhuman gifts such as the ability to become invisible, project a double image of himself and hear distant conversations; however, he must discipline his skills and control his impetuous temper. He also must work out his relationship with the Tribe, a treacherous secret organization of spies and assassins that saved his life but that may have murdered his father. Kaede, meanwhile, has to escape the powerless role of a woman if she is to protect herself and her family domain from predatory neighbors. Adept at creating vivid natural settings where the supernatural feels unusually plausible, Hearn catches fresh details of trees, birds, rivers and mountains. With quick, direct sentences like brushstrokes on a Japanese scroll, she suggests vast and mysterious landscapes full of both menace and wonder. Hearn shows that middle novels of trilogies don't have to simply fill space between an exciting opening and conclusion. (Aug. 11)
Forecast:Hyped as the next J.K. Rowling, Hearn—in fact, Australian children's book author Gillian Rubinstein, who was born in England—disclosed her identity last year but has since kept a low profile. Her anonymity hasn't hurt, with rights to the trilogy sold to 20 countries and movie rights to Universal for an estimated $3.6 million. Don't expect the books to vie for the top of national bestseller charts, though, until the movie release.
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