Welcome back to our read of Lian Hearn’s Japanese inspired fantasy, Across the Nightingale Floor, where we glimpse the story from a reader’s perspective and learn from what Hearn does well as a writer.
To catch up or review previous part of this read, click here.
They reach Inuyama, the eastern capital city where Iida resides. Still using his guise as the harmless artist, Takeo manages to get a tour of the castle where he memorizes the path he must take to assassinate Iida. The next day, Iida summons Shigeru and Takeo to a meeting, and there, they realize that he knows who Takeo is, the Hidden boy who unhorsed him. Shigeru and Takeo are allowed to return to their residence in the city, but they expect to die at any moment. That night, they decide Takeo must perform the assassination, but before he can, Kenji betrays them and helps the Tribe kidnap Takeo.
Reader Comments: I knew something bad had to happen. It could have been assassins sent to kill Shigeru and Takeo, but this is more interesting because it’s a much deeper, personal betrayal. I have no idea how Takeo is going to get away though.
Writer Comments: Especially toward the climax of a story, there should be something that snares potential victory from the hero. It does not do this ultimately, but it should thrust the stakes much higher and make the reader wonder how the hero will ever manage victory. For Across the Nightingale Floor, it’s the Tribe claiming Takeo and removing the one chance they believe they have of destroying Iida so that everyone can be free and live.
Kaede, along with the other women, including Lady Maruyama, reside during this time in Iida’s castle. Kaede can sense the undercurrents around her, and she’s terrified of what will come. One night, her maid keeps vigil all night and the next day goes to Shigeru under the pretext of delivering a poem from Kaede. Only then does she confess to Kaede the truth about the plot to assassinate Iida, that Takeo is of the Tribe, and that the Tribe took him. She also gives Kaede a needle to hide in the hem of her sleeve and use as a weapon. Lady Maruyama too speaks with Kaede, and, much as it breaks her heart, confesses that Kaede must marry Shigeru to save his life if no other way presents itself, even though Maruyama is carrying Shigeru’s child.
Reader Comments: Why do I have the feeling people are about to start dying in this book? I also suspect that Kaede will end up having a role to play in Iida’s assassination.
Writer Comments: So often in fantasy, female characters are portrayed as bluntly strong, warriors, and powerful. Yet Hearn’s women are required by their society to be virtually powerless. This creates fascinating scenes for them because, after all, when society denies a heroine power, she must find subtler and more unique ways to fight for the results she desires. Too, Hearn adds details suggesting Kaede will not be as helpless as the setting might demand. She is trained privately, though briefly, in the sword. She now carries a hidden needle capable of ending life, and while the women in this chapter are trapped, they conspire to do what they must to ensure their and, in Lady Maruyama’s case, their children’s lives are preserved. Kaede even thinks about what it would be like to stab Iida through the eye with her needle. Sometimes the more interesting choice is not the most obvious.