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The Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn

In this series Lian Hearn follows the life of Takeo – the young man adopted by a Lord of the Otori clan to be his heir. The books are set in a fictional feudal Japan and depict an enormous power struggle between the many clan lords who rule the land. Although originally a trilogy, the Tales grew over the years to include a prequel and sequel which close the narrative in a full circle.

An encounter between a young boy fleeing his burning village and a mysterious warrior will change their lives forever. The boy is rescued by the warrior and given a new name – Otori Takeo, and a new identity – the heir of Otori Shigeru, a Lord of the clan Otori.  Takeo is trained to be a great warrior and taught to negotiate his way through the confusing politics of his world. However, he soon discovers abilities like no other, and trains for a secret, deadly mission deep into enemy territory. 

I have always loved the original trilogy in this series, even the second book which is somewhat slow and disjointed. Takeo’s struggles to find himself in a new world, avenge his adoptive father and be united with the love of his life are told wonderfully in the trilogy. The writing style is very different to that usually used to in fiction, with emotive descriptions of the landscape and an emphasis on honour above all else. 

The sequel, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, is also a great read as the far-reaching consequences of key events in the trilogy unfold sixteen years later. Similarly, the prequel novel, Heaven’s Net is Wide, depicts Otori Shigeru as he searches desperately to avenge the death of his younger brother and heir. Both Tales are moving to read and allow the story of the Otori clan to be told in totality.

As the prequel ends precisely where the trilogy begins – a chance meeting on a mountain path between a boy and a warrior, it lends a sense of finality to what is, overall, a brilliantly written series that everyone should read at least once!

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