TITLE: Tales of the Otori, Book Two: Grass for His Pillow
AUTHOR: Lian Hearn
The sequel to Across the Nightingale Floor, set in an alternate medieval Japan, picks up a few months following that book. Takeo has reluctantly left the love of his life, Kaede, and gone with The Tribe, his father's people, as part of a deal he made with them to allow him to avenge Otori Shigeru who had rescued him from certain death in the first book and become his adopted father. The Tribe claimed him due to his father having been a Tribe assassin who'd run away from that life.
In this book, Takeo, whose special talents and heightened senses surpass that of most of the Tribe's people, is being trained as an assassin, but the elders don't trust him, nor does he trust them. He believes his destiny lies elsewhere, but he's obligated by the agreement he'd made, to stay, until his heightened hearing reveals to him that he'll be killed on an upcoming mission. He escapes, instead, and sets out on a journey to claim Shigeru's domain from Shigeru's deceitful uncles and unite the many lands of the island realm.
Meanwhile, Kaede has returned to her home to find her mother dead, her father a step short of madness, and the estate in disarray. Though it goes against the laws of society for a woman to act like a man, she sets out to unite her family domain with that of her recently deceased kinswoman's, and the book follows these parallel story threads until Kaede and Takeo meet again, setting up the action for the final book of the trilogy.
This is a fully realized realm, with well-drawn characters, young people who make mistakes yet believe in their cause. The writing is plain and crisp and the book rarely lags. I've just started reading the next one and can't wait to read the fate of Takeo and Kaede.