Grass for his Pillow

Lian Hearn

The second volume picks after the traumatic events that concluded Across the Nightingale Floor that sent Takeo and Kaede in separate directions. Takeo has been taken by the Tribe to fulfil his destiny as heir to the powerful powers of his father, a famous assassin of the Kikuta family. Kaede wishes to fulfil her own destiny by becoming both the heir to her fathers lands and of Maruyama, a coastal area in the south west from whom Lady Maruyama had bequest in the event of her death. They both struggle in their new lives but their love for each other never dissipates and you can’t help but root for Kaede and Takeo to get back together despite everything that is against them.

Kaede struggles against the societal norms of the land that expect women to be little more than slaves to their powerful husbands and she fights at every moment to be treated as a man would. Kaede has to endure the expectation that she will marry again and she has to tread a fine line to appease her overlords and interested nobility whilst retaining her independence. At first she is able to do this well and asserts her dominance over her domain and people with great effect but it slowly starts to seep away from her control. It finally comes crashing down partly due to her teenage impulses that drive her back into Takeo’s arms.

On Takeos part he has to endure a hard six months with the Tribe, learning their ways until he has an opportunity to escape. He also comes into contact with a key character called Jo-An who lives in the under class knows at the outcastes, working as a tanner, one of the lowest of the low jobs. Takeo knows he shouldn’t speak to such a person but they have history going back to Yamagata when Jo-An started worshiping him after giving him the name Angel of Yamagata. It is shocking to many that Takeo has anything to do with this outcaste but is another sign that Takeo is upending the old rules to create something new much like Kaede as she learns how to write and speak like a lord.

This is a constant theme of the Otori books, the teenagers struggling against the existing rules of the land due to their upbringing. Their defiance of the rules of their class are explained in the following passage when reflecting on their differences in upbringing to other warrior children but it’s with a sense of foreboding for the consequences their actions will bring.

“We had both escaped, for different reasons, the rigid training in obedience of most warriors children. It gave us freedom to act as we pleased, but the elders of our class were to make us pay for it”

Ultimately Takeo has to connect his three lives. First as an outcaste due to being born Hidden, second as the warrior class, due to his adoption by Lord Otori and thirdly as the assassin due to his Tribe ancestry. How would these combine to create something new. Being the middle book of the trilogy this internal conflict sets the scene for the final action packed volume Brilliance of the Moon.

Rating 76%

More Info

Publisher: Picador

Year Published: 2003

Pages: 305

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