By Lian Hearn, p. 305 – adult fiction
Takeo has never known his father, who died many years before, and he has been growing up in a remote and peaceful Japanese village surrounded by the rest of his loving family. The rest of Japan is not so; it is a time of warlords, and secret societies in the middle ages, and Takeo’s home is attacked and destroyed by a warlord named Iida who is threatening to take over the whole country. When Takeo returns from a walk in the woods and sees his village burning, something inside him takes over. He scares the warlord’s horse and causes Iida to fall to the ground. Understanding his fatal blunder, he runs back into the woods chased by the warlord’s soldiers. They all run into a man on horseback who fights for Takeo, cutting off the arm of one of Iida’s best warriors. This mysterious man turns out to be a lord of the Otori clan, another of the powerful families of Japan.
Takeo’s life changes completely from this day forward. He is adopted by the Otori and he discovers his father was a famous assassin. He also finds out his real heritage is the Tribe, a kind of secret ninja society; he possesses some of the Tribe’s extraordinary abilities. He can hear details across a crowded courtyard, or through a wooden door, he can make himself “go invisible” and become as silent as a ghost.
In these turbulent times, talents like these are desired by many, and Takeo finds himself pulled in different directions, but he is determined to complete the final task for his adopted father: kill Iida, the same lord who burned his village and killed his family. The trouble is the only way to reach the warlord in his palace is to cross the nightingale floor, a huge room covered in a floor that sings whenever anyone touches it. How can he cross the nightingale floor and avenge his family?
Connections: For other stories taking place in medieval Japan try The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard, or The Sword that Cut the Burning Grass: A Samurai Mystery, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.