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

(Riverhead, 2003)

Lian Hearn continues her tale of intrigue, love and loyalty in Grass for His Pillow: Tales of the Otori, Book Two.

The action in this book picks up where the first book, Across the Nightingale Floor, left off. Much as Takeo longs to stay and make a life with Kaede, he feels obligated to honor his oath and his heritage to the assassins who go by the name of the Tribe, and he leaves to train with them. Kaede returns to her father's house with her companion Shizuka only to find her mother dead, her home in disarray and her father driven mad with shame. To say that things deteriorate from there would be an understatement.

Takeo undergoes the brutal training required of the Tribe and manages to endure under the harshly restrictive clan rules. The regime, however, conflicts with his soul and his upbringing among the gentle hidden, and he waits for a chance to get away, even though it means his life is forfeit to any of the Tribe who finds him. At the same time, Kaede is on the move again as well, moving inexorably toward her own destiny and Takeo.

The narrative alternates Takeo's first-person point of view with Kaede's story told in third person. Hearn's writing is lush and lovely, full of specific details, each of which enhances the tale. There is suspense and depth in the tale, which a cast of thoroughly delineated characters portrays. The novel stands well enough on its own, although the experience is richer if one has read the first book.

The reader should be aware that the action takes place in a mythical medieval Japan, a choice which allows Hearn to play with events and timelines. Her attention to detail is marvelous and Grass for His Pillow, like its predecessor, has all the grace and stark beauty of a Japanese painting.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 1 May 2004

Buy it from