Posts filed under ‘Lian Hearn’

Heaven’s Net is Wide

I moved to WordPress with my other blog, and my procrastinating soul couldn’t bear to leave this one behind. I will transfer my blogroll at some point, can’t say when, for the moment it’s accessible at The Little Book Room, take one.

Heaven’s Net is Wide is the prequel to the Across the Nightingale Floor series (now there are five books in all). I read the other four books last year and adored them. Set in a world modeled on a medieval Japan, the books explore conflicting loyalties and honour codes between three different groups: the warrior classes (their motto is fight and die with honour, even when it means killing yourself), the Tribe (secret families with magical skills who ultimately answer only to themselves but hire themselves out as assassins and spies), and the Hidden (equally secret religious sect based on Western Christianity, who refuse to kill). This is a promising background for a story, but as well as being gripping reads, the real beauty of these books is in the sensual descriptions of the places, the seasons and the characters. Amid the courage, betrayal, and doomed loved stories, these books offer true escapism of the loveliest kind.

That said, I thought this was the weakest of the five. Having read the other books, it was great to get a bit of the back story, and get inside the heads of the characters who were more distant in the other novels. But I don’t think the pacing was as tight as it is in the other ones, and there was sometimes the sense that it filled in background details just for the sake in it. This was most obvious regarding the Hidden – this religion is dealt with quite lightly in the other books, and as it was made more explicit here, it lost some of its mystery. I don’t know what it would be like reading this one first, but I would recommend starting with Across the Nightingale Floor, which dealt with the unfolding mystery and the conflicting loyalties in a much more compelling way.

August 5, 2008 at 4:53 pm 2 comments

Summer Reading

Now that the summer is ending (mercifully slowly – this weather is lovely!), here’s a quick catch up.

Lian Hearn, The Harsh Cry of the Heron

This is the fourth in a series, and they’ve all been wonderful. Set in a fantasy world reminiscent of medieval Japan, it is evocative and gripping and beautiful, and this book is my favourite yet. Don’t want to give too much away, but it’s just lovely. And she’s an Adelaide writer, hurrah!

Knut Hamsun, Hunger

One of my challenge reads, and more fun than I thought it would be, after the front cover glibly declared that it was one of the most disturbing books in existence. A young Nowegian hovers on the brink of starvation in nineteenth century Oslo, to proud to do much about it. It was disturbing, and the main character was difficult to like (I think this was the point), but I did find myself warming to him towards the end. There’s even the odd medieval reference, as he attempts to write a play set in the Middle Ages. It’s been compared with Dosteovsky, but is a little one dimensional in comparison.

Randolph Stow, Tourmaline

Read the previous post. What can I say? Bruce Clunies Ross says he has the linguistic equivalent of perfect pitch. I agree.

Randolph Stow, Visitants

Not good plane reading, because the perspective and voice switches every page and a half. Disturbing and compelling, and better on a second reading, when you know what’s going on. Set in the Trobriant Islands, it documents a gradual disintegration into madness against a backdrop of cargo cults and reports of alien star-ships.

A. J. Hassall, Strange Country: A Study of Randolph Stow

A thorough summary of everything Stow wrote, but rather bland, and ignores some of the most interesting aspects…

Nick Hornby, How to be Good

This one definitely is good plane reading. Deceptively light hearted, this is an essentially bleak appraisal of married life.

Mormonism for Dummies

I’m not about to convert, but I found this fascinating. Not sure about the regulation underwear, or whether God lives near a distant star, but did like the depiction of Eve as the brave, courageous founder of mortal life.

D.M. Cornish, Monster Blood Tattoo

Another Adelaide writer, who has created a world of monsters and sailing ships where things are not quite as they seem. Great fun. Can’t wait for the rest of the series.

And now on with the term! Stay tuned, posts here might become a little more frequent…

September 14, 2007 at 7:47 pm 2 comments


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