This is the last section of our read of Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. At the end of this read, I’ll announce the book we’ll tackle next, and it’ll be a bit different from what we’ve done so far.
To catch up or review previous parts of this read or to see other books I’ve broken down from a reader’s and writer’s perspective, click here.
Takeo goes with Kenji into Iida’s residence. He tracks down Iida in Kaede’s room. There, he finds that Kaede has already killed Iida. Takeo is overcome with mixed emotions. He feels at a loss because his vengeance has been taken from him, yet he’s relieved that it’s all over and that the woman he loves is safe. He and Kaede, in a rush of love and relief, sleep together. Then, he takes Iida’s head, and they all escape the palace as it burns to the ground.
Reader Comments: Yay that Kaede and Takeo end up together in some measure. I’m willing to bet she gets pregnant and that complicates his life. However, I’m still not sure how I feel about Kaede killing Iida rather than Takeo, the hero, slaying the villain.
Writer Comments: This issue of the climax needs to be broken down and examined. The true climactic moment of the story comes when Kaede kills Iida in the previous chapter. But it’s quiet. It’s secret to the other characters. It’s an unusual climax, but it technically accomplishes what I climax should. It resolves the story in the sense that the threat, the antagonist in the form of Iida, is removed. However, Takeo, the protagonist, isn’t the one to bring about this resolution. So what does this mean? Does it mean that Kaede is the protagonist? That’s a hard argument to make as the majority of the story focuses on Takeo, it’s Takeo’s emotional journey that’s primarily highlighted, and Takeo’s point-of-view sections are in first, a more intimate POV (point of view), while Kaede’s are in the more distant third.
There’s another way to look at this, though. First of all, had Kaede not brought about Iida’s deathblow, she would not serve nearly so great a role in the story, perhaps not nearly enough of one to warrant all the POV time she receives. It’s possible that Hearn is trying to tie Kaede and Takeo together, to make them jointly the protagonist. After all, one of main thrusts of the story is bringing the two of them to a point where they will become tied into the same plot and in each other’s hearts.
As a writer, I’m torn on the climax. I’m not sure how else Hearn could have written it, but I’m not sure if it’s handled satisfactorily. But looking at it another way, in one sense, it’s possible that Iida was simply a small villain for Takeo to overcome on his way to encountering the true threat, the Tribe. Right now, Iida is dead, Takeo is even more trapped and in danger than ever. Perhaps the true villains of the setting have been revealed.
In either case, the sheer number of words I’ve devoted to this one issue indicates its impact on me. Hearn was clearly going for a sequel, which is proven by the fact that there are other books in the series. I can’t say that the climax makes me not want to read the next book, but I’d have mixed feelings about picking up the second in the Tales of the Otori series. I think, if I had a hint that the next book involved some vengeance on Takeo’s part against the Tribe and that there was some hope that Kaede and Takeo might end up together, I’d read it.
After Iida’s death and Takeo’s escape, Takeo slips away from Kenji and the others and travels to Shigeru’s grave. There, he waits, grieving and realizing the impact Shigeru had on the people. Too, he grapples with the fact that it was his hands that murdered Shigeru, his adopted and beloved father. But peace of any sort cannot be his for long. The Tribe comes to claim him, either he accepts or dies. Further, when saying farewell to Kaede, he accidentally uses one of his powers and puts her in a sleep from which they do not know when she will wake. The Tribe may demand too much of him and his dreams may be stolen from him, but one thing is clear, his powers are such that, unless he learns to control them, he might hurt others he loves.
Reader Comments: This last part makes me feel a bit better about the ending, but I’m still torn. Aside from that, the complication at the end with putting Kaede to sleep I suspect will come into play in the next book. Kaede and Shigeru, represented by Jato, the Otori sword Shigeru passed down to Takeo, will ever be ghosts haunting Takeo until the day he makes peace with himself and takes vengeance on those who would control his life. Kaede too, I suppose, needs to grow before she can truly become worthy of Takeo. Hmm, the more I talk about it, the more at ease I am with the ending.
Writer Comments: Let’s look at the last paragraph of this book.
“The sun would pass above the mountains, pulling the shadows of the cedars after it, until it descended again below the rim of the hills. So the world went, and humankind lived on it as best they could, between the darkness and the light.” Across the Nightingale Floor, page 287
There are, of course, many ways to end a story. Thematically is one of the tops. This paragraph is heavy in theme and, perhaps, foreshadowing. The sun might be an image of Takeo as he’s forced to take this journey with the Tribe and find a way to exist between darkness and light. But also, the paragraph draws up the book’s theme, that finding the best existence we can amidst darkness, sadness, sorrow, and evil, that sometimes our choice or circumstances place us in a position we don’t care for, and all we can do is make the best of it and, hopefully, bring better. Too, I would suggest that Hearn attempts to suggest hope in this paragraph, for though the sun journeys over the hills, in essence Takeo going with the Tribe, light as the final word suggests the chance for better even though the world currently appears dim.
Overall, Across the Nightingale Floor was an enjoyable book. It was nice reading something different. I’m still a bit torn on the ending. I have a feeling it will take me a while to fully sort through my impressions and feelings of it.
Thank you for joining me for this read. Next week, we’ll begin a new book, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Until now, I’ve only used books by female authors in these reads. Initially, I made this decision because all the books I’d seen Tor use for their online rereads, which was my inspiration for these posts, were by men. I wanted to even the scales a bit. However, I find myself now feeling trapped in reading just female voices for these reads, so I’m now opening it up to the whole spectrum. I’ll still be sure to include female authors, but this time, we’ll take a sidestep and look at Brandon Sanderson, a recent rising star of the fantasy genre, who has captured the hearts and imagination of oodles of fans, which is precisely why he’s worth studying. Until then, swing back by on Friday for the next segment of Worldcon Treasures.
For anyone interested, The Way of Kings is currently only $1.26 on Amazon Kindle.