Author: Lian Hearn
Rating: – for the first 300 or so pages
Rating: – for the last 200 or so pages
Reading Level: HS and up
Edition: Hardcover, 2006
If I hadn’t wanted so much to finish the series of Otori tales, and hadn’t heard that the ending is truly worthwhile, I would have put down the book at page 215 or so. The first half of the book needs so much editing! Hearn’s static character descriptions (a long paragraph on the appearance and the personality of each major and minor character), while charming in small doses, become an annoyance when too many new (or old but forgotten by book 4) characters are introduced this way. And the repeated explanation of “The Way of the Houou” leaves me feeling that Hearn cannot trust her readers’ intelligence to have grasped the philosophical underpinning of the way of peace. The plot development is also painfully slow.
I have no problem with the fact that this is a story of Takeo and Kaede when they are adults — but it really would have been better for me if there has been a better balance of politics and tribe skills (up the fantasy element, down play the political struggles). Someone mentioned on Amazon.com that it is disappointing how Kaede is reduced to a plain character troubled by traditional prejudice (against the twins), the lack of a male offspring, and other petty feelings. I can agree with that — Takeo continues to be a fully drawn character but Kaede becomes quite shadowy. Her feelings are told without the possibility of deep understanding by the reader. Her final actions, however, are in keeping with her passionate nature. Her old coolness in facing adverse situations sprang from her love and trust for Takeo. Thus, she cannot possibly keep her cool when that foundation is destroyed.
But… the ENDING — the last 150 pages or so… MY GOODNESS. I often shed tears over incidents and characters in books, but the violent sobs and non-stoppable stream of tears are uncommon, even for me. Two days after closing the book, the sorrow still tinges my mood.