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Across the Nightingale Floor

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Hearn's a very good writer who has finally created a work that fits snugly into a mass market adult genre. Her `quality fantasy' novel is the first volume in a planned trilogy entitled `Tales of the Otori.' It has many of the traditional trappings of the genre-a medieval setting (in this case quasi-Japanese), a seemingly-innocuous young narrator who discovers he has special powers, an older warrior mentor, a journey to the centre of an evil empire, and a virgin-in-peril. It also has some pleasing contemporary variations: the women are as deadly as the men, and the special powers seem made for the silver screen (could this book have been written before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?). Ms Hearn has another life as a children's author, and all the hallmarks of her young adult writing are here-effortlessly readable prose, expert plotting, surprising twists and turns, and an immaculately conceived alternative reality. This last element is the real strength of this book. The quasi-Japanese society is exquisitely rendered: not only in the physical settings but in the way the characters behave, interact, communicate and think. The inner lives of the characters are perhaps a little underdeveloped, there's an absence of light relief and the plot changes direction a little too abruptly at the end, but the book's a veritable page-turner. Worth the hype? I'll decide after I've read volumes two and three. Andrew Wilkins is the editor of AB&P. C. 2002 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

"Takeo's journey of self-discovery, his first great love, and his transformation from confused boy to brave warrior in a chaotic time will keep readers riveted."

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