Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tales of the Otori

I've just read a most wonderful trilogy of books by Lian Hearn (a pseudonym for the Australian children's author Gillian Rubinstein), Tales of the Otori. I liked the very first one the most, Across the Nightingale Floor, but the second--Grass for His Pillow--and third--The Brilliance of the Moon--are both excellent as well. The setting is really well and fully imagined (it's a kind of fantasy feudal Japan, but pretty soundly historically based as far as I can tell) and the prose style is superb--plain and clear but very striking as well. This is the big shortcoming of many even quite good fantasy tales, and it's what made these books a particular pleasure to read. You can see the author drawn more and more strongly towards a kind of historical saga-writing that's not exactly my cup of tea, but these books are EXCELLENT. In fact, pretty much what I always walk into the Bank Street Bookstore every month to look for--I have this deep conviction that somehow since the last time I went in two or three really wonderful new YA fantasy trilogies will have appeared on the shelves, and I am always disappointed since I've read the good ones already. That's why I wrote Dynamite No. 1 (which awaits one more round of revision--however I've made headway with all my other work, so I think I can start with this tomorrow)--it's the book I most want to read and fail to find. In fact I had a strong fellow feeling for Hearn as I read these novels--on the surface they're COMPLETELY different from what I'm working on (my novel's set in an alternate-universe 1930s Edinburgh, featuring a sort of melange of science and technology and spiritualism that is very much grounded in real history but also in practical rather than mystical things), but the underlying interests are remarkably similar. I am delighted with these books! I gather that Hearn's written 2 more volumes but hasn't yet decided whether to publish them. I really hope she does.