TITLE: Across the Nightingale Floor, Tales of the Otori, Book One
AUTHOR: Lian Hearn
The first book of a fantasy, or quasi-fantasy trilogy that was named a New York Times Notable Book, published in 2002. The setting is a fictional, feudal realm that seems based on Japanese culture, along with a tribe of people who have magical abilities. Tomasu has those abilities, and is only fifteen when a warlord's army destroys his village, including his mother and stepfather. Tomasu's people are The Hidden, a religious sect feared and despised by many, but as he later learns, his father was of The Tribe, a people with heightened senses who can control the perceptions of others.
Rescued by Lord Otori Shgeru and renamed Takeo, Tomasu is taught how to best use his skills, while plotting his revenge against Iida, the warlord who killed his family. But Takeo's journey toward his fate isn't the only one being told. There's also Kaede, a girl around his age who has been sent into indentured servitude in order as part of a deal made by her father, an arrangement typical of the times. Kaede's awakening awareness of her place in society and her growing desire to rebel against it, coupled with Takeo's coming of age to fulfill his destiny forms the heart and soul of the book as their paths cross and love blooms. But the end is just the beginning, as both learn of the dangers and risks in their society and the political intrigues behind those dangers, a society that won't allow them to be together.
The writing is clear if a bit slow-going, but worth reading. These are wonderful characters coming of age in tough times, whose destinies are slowly revealed to them, destinies they would not have expected or chosen for themselves as circumstances force them into roles they were born to play.