Brilliance of the Moon
The third volume of Tales of the Otori bring Takeo’s and Kaede’s story to a close after the winter spent at Tarayama monastery. Takeo doesn’t command the largest army and has the Tohan on one side and Arai of the Seishuu on the other. He has to develop a grand coalition of pirates, outcastes, farmers and warriors in order to fulfil his ambition of retaking Hagi from his Uncles and claiming his hereditary lands. Kaede has her own ambitions and must take ownership of Maruyama before other lords stake their claim. There is an urgency to deliver on these plans before the season turns to winter and they are forced to hunker down once again over the short days and cold nights.
Their plans are put at risk as mistakes are made once again. Rash decisions leave Kaede a hostage in her fathers land and Takeo a puppet to Arai’s whims. Once again they are separated and Takeo must do all he can to be reunited with his wife. Kaede and Takeo are interesting because they are flawed characters. They make rash decisions that defy the conventions and traditions of the ruling class and are driven by their desire to do things differently and forge a new path within the world they live in. I was sometimes infuriated by their poor decisions driven by emotion and impatience but are then reminded of how young they are, Kaede is just sixteen and Takeo seventeen.
One passage that talks to the winds of change that Takeo is attempting to usher in give a glimpse into the future and the role of technology across the world. Fumio, his childhood friend from the Terada clan, have been forced to become pirates to earn their living after being ousted from Hagi. He shows Takeo a spyglass that appears to be a magical tool when objects so far away are suddenly seen to be close. Takeo gasps in surprise when he peers through the spyglass but then comments.
“What is it?” I said. It did not look or feel like something magic. It had been made by the hands of men”.
Many people believed Takeo could perform magic due to his skills but handling this object for the first time Takeo himself was torn between the magical properties of seeing and the practical science of how it was made. Fumio procured his spyglass from the mainland, a place no-one appears to have visited or has much knowledge of and also talks of weapons from the mainland that “kill from a huge distance with lead and fire”.
The story builds to an epic earthquake that changes the course of history across the whole land where no-one is untouched or changed. Lian Hearn is not scared of taking her characters on a painful and emotionally scarring journey but it is an immensely enjoyable ride.
© The Outlands Review