This is a strangely disappointing book.. For those who have been following the fortunes of the Otori clan it will be a must buy. Yet at the same time it is curiously unsatisfying. Whilst it fills in some details of history that pre-date "Across the Nightingale Floor" it adds little to our understanding of the motivation of the main characters in the later books as this was already clear. The strangely compressed ending, when Hearn appears to be in a rush to get Shigeru across to Mino, killing off Takeshi and Komori (who puts in a late and unconvincing reappearance) in the process seems to be driven more by the need to end the book and link it back into "Nightingale" than by clearly worked out narrative structure. That said, Hearn displays all her old skills in evoking the world of a semi-mythical medieval Japan. Particularly interesting is how she uses the possibility of Nestorian Christianity having reached Japan in the 9th Century as the basis of the Hidden, as indicated by the name of one of her Hidden characters. In the end I am glad I read it (if only out of a sense of completing the set), but I am not sure that it has added anything to my understanding or appreciation of the previous books in the series.
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