May 1st, 2010

Review: Grass For His Pillow by Lian Hearn

Grass For His Pillow (Tales of the Otori #2)

by Lian Hearn


            Takeo begins training with the Tribe, and it’s brutal.  Kikuto Akio is in charge of his training, and he has hated Takeo ever since the Tribe’s first attempt to kidnap him.  The talented daughter Takeo’s old teacher Kenji, Yuki, is sympathetic to Takeo’s fate and they become lovers.  Back in the wider world of the three countries, Takeo’s disappearances enrages Lord Arai, and he begins persecuting the Tribe.  Meanwhile, Kaede has returned to her father’s domain, which has been devastated by mismanagement and bad weather.  Since he has no son, and he believes Kaede’s pregnancy to be the product of a secret marriage between herself and Lord Otori Shigeru, Kaede’s father begins teaching her to read and write, and treats her as his heir.  But when a monk accidentally reveals there was no marriage between Kaede and Shigeru, her father attacks her and is killed by Kaede’s loyal servants.  She begins the difficult task of bringing the Shirakawa domain under her own power, in spite of being a woman.  She is aided by Lord Fujiwara, a nobleman whose lands border her own, but his attentions make it clear that he expects marriage in return for his gifts.  Even as their lives lead in opposite directions, neither Kaede nor Takeo can find happiness without each other.


Grass For His Pillow is one of those books that obviously exists as a bridge between the first and last book in a trilogy.  It can’t stand on its own, because you need the information from the first to really understand what’s going on, and there’s no firm, satisfying conclusion. I'm reading this book several years after the trilogy's completion, so I don't mind, because I know I can go out tomorrow and get the next book in the series.  But if I'd been reading this before Brilliance of the Moon was published, I would have been annoyed.


Can’t think of much to say that I didn’t already mention in my review for Across The Nightingale Floor.  The characters are great, and the not-Japan world riveting. At times it’s really hard not to impose my own values on the characters – both Kaede and Takeo make some truly dumb decisions – but their culture isn’t mine, and it is great to see that Hearn did such a convincing job of bringing their world to life.


To read more about Grass For His Pillow, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.