The lull after the storm as a gifted warrior and a princess with a destiny ready themselves for war.
In Across the Nightingale Floor (2002), British author Hearn created for herself a largely mythical Japan. The clash of armies and igniting of passions that mixed with such impressive power in that first book, however, have been dampened in this moodier sequel. After killing the evil Lord Iida, young Takeo has withdrawn somewhat from the struggles of the world to learn the ways of the Tribe (a mysterious and skilled clan who make their living as assassins and spies) instead of taking the crown of his adopted father Lord Shigeru, killed at the end of the first installment. The compassionate Takeo has little stomach for being a hired killer and wants desperately to escape, though it’s unlikely the Tribe will let him do so—alive. Given more attention this time is the story of Kaede, the princess who previously fell in love with Takeo and now pines away for him. Kaede has returned to her ancestral lands with a small band of followers, only to find that her father has lost most of his own power and land. In a most unladylike fashion, Kaede sets about restoring her family’s greatness, knowing that war is coming to fill the void left after the death of Lord Iida. To say that Grass for His Pillow is a disappointment after Nightingale would be to overstate the case, yet it’s hard to get past the feeling that, in true trilogy fashion, this follow-up is doing little more than setting the stage for the awesome meeting of swords and wills that seems sure to come in a final volume. As such, it makes for engaging, but less than essential, reading.
A bridge between battles, not likely to thrill Nightingale fans, though it may garner new readers on its own merits.