Review

Grass for His Pillow: Tales of the Otori, Book Two

by Lian Hearn



GRASS FOR HIS PILLOW by Lian Hearn is the second book in a trilogy
of novels called TALES OF THE OTORI. Takeo (Tomasu) is our hero and
is torn between living with his father's people and his need to
take revenge for what was done to his adoptive father, Lord Shigeru
of the Otori. Based on life in Feudal Japan, GRASS FOR HIS PILLOW
mixes fantasy with some fact, making it feel like a cross between
THE LORD OF THE RINGS and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. It is a
world of ancient Japan, combined with a fantasy world of flying
warriors and magical people.

The first book introduced the reader to the world of the clans, in
particular The Otori, in which Tomasu (renamed Takeo by his
'captors') finds himself bonded to for life. Lord Shigeru takes
Takeo under his wing and treats him like a son, and many presume
that Takeo will eventually inherit Shigeru's standing as the leader
of the clan. Through Shigeru and various teachers, Takeo learns a
new way of life, a life that is very different from what he knew as
a child with his people "The Hidden," peaceful individuals who
believe in a new type of god foreign to the rest of Japan. In
opposition to what he was taught as a child, Takeo learns how to
use a sword like the best of the samurai warriors but also
discovers skills he didn't know he had, those of which belong to
The Tribe.

By the end of the first book, Takeo has become an expert warrior
and has developed new skills inherited by his father who was one of
The Tribe, a group of people who have powers and skills that The
Hidden believe are evil. Yet this is part of Takeo's heritage, and
he learns to use his skills with the mastery that is the envy of
the people who capture Takeo at the end of ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE
FLOOR.

GRASS FOR HIS PILLOW picks up exactly where the first book ends.
Lady Kaede, who was barely a young woman in the first book, is now
madly in love with Takeo but does not know if he is alive or dead.
With the help of her lady-in-waiting Shizuka, Kaede slowly amasses
the power and strength to become a leader of her own family, the
Shirakawa, currently led by her aging father. Her story is one of
courage, as she realizes that the only way for she and her sisters
to survive is for Kaede to learn the skills that all boys learn
from their fathers. She masters the man's language and learns to
write and think like a man. She confronts soldiers and lords when
needed, showing them no fear. Their father is too old and weak, and
Kaede does not want to think that they can't survive without a man.
In her opinion, she cannot depend on a man.

In the meantime, Takeo is living amongst The Tribe. He is torn
between his identities with the Otori, the people he originally
called family (The Hidden), and his father's people, The Tribe.
Takeo is confused as to which path to take. He is unhappy but has
vowed to be a part of The Tribe, so he attempts to become one of
them. Life is not easy for him and the conflict that he feels in
his heart does not make it any easier. Although Takeo takes up with
another woman on his journeys with The Tribe, his love for Kaede
never dies. Not knowing whether she is alive or dead, he continues
on his journey with the Tribe. Soon, however, Takeo is on the run
attempting to return to the Otori and at the same time watching his
back, knowing that The Tribe will not let him live outside their
world. Takeo has a destiny to fulfill, but it is unknown if he will
succeed.

Although I didn't find this second novel to be as intriguing as the
first, I believe that the third novel will bring this epic to a
stunning close. THE TALES OF THE OTORI can be enjoyed by adults and
young people alike. Not many books use Feudal Japan as a backdrop,
and I highly enjoyed it.

Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org) on January 22, 2011

Grass for His Pillow: Tales of the Otori, Book Two
by Lian Hearn

  • Publication Date: August 11, 2003
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 1573222518
  • ISBN-13: 9781573222518