Tuesday, 4 August 2009


Across the nightingale floorTALES OF THE OTORI  by Lian Hearn

This sweeping fantasy of Medieval Japan covers four books and a prequel, starting with ‘Across the Nightingale Floor’.  15 year old Tomasu is rescued by Shigeru, the charismatic head of the Otori clan after Shigeru’s mortal enemies the Tohan led by Iida Samu raze Thomasu’s village and kill his parents and all the inhabitants because they belong to ‘The Hidden’, a religious sect that preaches love and forgiveness, anathema to the warring Samurai class. 
Shigeru adopts Thomasu as his heir, and sets in motion a chain of events that carry the reader inexorably along until the conclusion of this great saga.  Lian Hearn is a writer of superb talent and imagery and it was very hard to say goodbye to the Otori clan.   Here’s hoping she’s working on her next epic.


All together deadSookie Stackhouse works in a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana.  It’s a redneck little town with a motley population – including shape-shifters, maenads…and vampires, who have now revealed themselves to the human world, thanks to a synthetic blood derivative, TrueBlood, invented by Japanese scientists which saves vampires from having to feed on their traditional human prey.   Sookie is pretty unusual herself:  she is telepathic, making her a very reluctant reader of whatever people are thinking in her presence – she can’t regard this unique power as a gift – it’s a curse! 
She doesn’t WANT to know what secret thoughts lurk behind peoples’ smiles, and for that very reason, she falls for vampire Bill Compton (y’all thought he’d be called Dracula, didn’t you!), not least because his mind is closed to her:  it’s wonderful to meet a true man of mystery at last.
Charlaine Harris has found a winning formula here, starting with the first book ‘Dead Until Dark’, which documents the start of Sookie’s love affair with Bill; introduces Sookie’s handsome but dim brother Jason, who has a distressingly fatal effect on the women in his life (and they are many);  sets the scene for a raft of fascinating characters both dead and alive, and makes sure that we will never regard The Undead in quite the same way again.  Each book (we are now up to # 9) is tightly plotted, slathered with TrueBlood and gore – and very, very funny.  Now a smash hit TV series starring 

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