Takeo was brought up in a peace loving community, but as he grows up he has to learn to live with the warlike skills he inherited from his warrior birth-father.
Across the Nightingale Floor follows Takeo's quest in a fictional land that resembles a long ago Japan. He is adoped by Shigeru, chief of the Otori clan and becomes part of his party, alongside Kaede who is betrothed to Shigeru but who has the unfortunate reputation of causing the death of any man who loves her.
Takeo hones his skills, including his incredibly sensitive hearing and his ability to become invisible to help Shigeru to outwit the warlord Iida Sadamu. His main obstacle is the nightingale floor, which alerts the warlord to intruders by singing like a bird at the slightest pressure.
It is herons, however, rather than nightingales, which are the birds that most inhabit this tale, appearing every so often:
The heron came to the garden every agternoon, floating like a grey ghost over the wall, folding itself improbably and standing thigh-deep in the pool, as still as a statue...The red and gold carp that Lord Otori took pleasure in feeding were too big for it, but it held its position, motionless for ling minutes at a time, until some hapless creature forgot it was there and dared to move in the water. Then the heron struck, faster than eye could follow, and, with the little wriggling thing in its beak, reassembled itself for flight. The first few wing beats were as loud as the sudden clacking of a fan, but after that it departed as silently as it came.
This is an engaging story and beautifully written. Most readers are likely to continue reading about the Otoris in the next twl books in the trilogy: Grass for His Pillow and Brilliance of the Moon.
Note to bird-lovers - there are no nightingales in a nightingale floor.
Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn published by BCA Macmillan