PEACE COMES AT THE PRICE OF BLOODSHED.
Five battles. Four to win. One to lose. Takeo and Kaede’s journey reaches a dramatic and violent conclusion.
Brilliance Of The Moon
(Tales Of The Otori, Book 3)
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
Date: 1st April 2005 (First Published 2004)
With Brilliance Of The Moon, author, Lian Hearn takes readers back to the world of the Three Countries for (what was intended to be) the final time. While there has subsequently been further instalments, book three of Tales Of The Otori does bring to a close the story of protagonists Takeo and Kaede.
Readers who have followed the series up to this point, will recall that the conclusion of book two sets up all the constituent pieces of the story that will play out during Brilliance Of The Moon. Teenage protagonists Takeo and Kaede decided, without permission, to get married immediately after they had been reunited, knowing well that the offence arising from this course of action would almost certainly bring them into conflict, politically and possibly militarily, with Lord Fujiwara and Lord Arai.
In the wake of the decision to marry, the couple began plotting how to bring to fruition their joint ambitions once the winter had abated. Kaede would return immediately to the safety of the Shirakawa domain where she can stake her claim as the rightful heir of the powerful, neighbouring Maruyama domain. While Takeo would remain in Terayama and finish raising an army with which to bolster Kaede’s claims and to march against the Otori clan, to exact revenge for Lord Shigeru, by killing his treacherous uncles.
As the novel commences, Takeo harbours feelings of both hope and trepidation about what the future holds. Having learned the truth about the heritage of his biological father, Kikuta Isamu, Takeo now knows that Lord Shigeru was not just his adopted father, but he was in fact his uncle on account of his father and Shigeru being half brothers. This blood bond would further legitimise Takeo’s claim to the Otori domain, as well as increase his determination to avenge Shigeru’s unjust death.
Despite being in reasonably good spirits, Takeo’s thoughts are troubled by another matter inextricably linked to the path laid out ahead of him; the prophecy told to him by the mysterious oracle he encountered during his life or death journey to Terayama, after escaping from The Tribe. Though reluctant to share the prophecy with Kaede, Takeo constantly contemplates the implications of the oracle’s words:
“Your lands will stretch from sea to sea. But peace comes at the price of bloodshed. Five battles will bring you peace, four to win and one to lose. Many must die, but you yourself are safe from death, except at the hands of your own son.”
Although he is obviously concerned about the prospect of engaging in five battles, and the significance of the one fated to end in defeat. The most troubling aspect of the oracle’s words to Takeo, is the prospect that he will be killed by his own son; a scenario he has every reason to consider plausible.
After being apprehended by The Tribe, and compelled to abandon his allegiance to Lord Shigeru and the Otori clan, Takeo believed that he would never again be with Kaede. Perhaps for this reason he made no effort to resist the sexual overtures of Yuki, the daughter of his Tribe mentor Kenji. Takeo would later learn that Yuki’s liaisons with him were ordered by the Kikuta faction of The Tribe who were desperate to acquire an offspring from Takeo. After Yuki had become pregnant she was spirited away by the Kikuta until she could deliver the baby. After escaping from the clutches of The Tribe, Takeo had to reluctantly accept that not only would the Kikuta raise the baby in the ways of The Tribe, untainted by any involvement from himself, but that his young son would also be taught to hate his father with a burning hatred.
While Takeo is able to acknowledge that, logically, it will be many years before his son is old enough to bring about his demise, he has no doubt that the boy he fathered with Yuki is the son referenced in the prophecy. In the meantime Takeo is resolute in his determination to ensure that the first part of the prophecy comes to pass.
It is doubtful if readers would have had reason for complaint if Lian Hearn wrapped up Takeo and Kaede’s tale by simply allowing the couple’s schemes to go according to plan. However, to keep things interesting Hearn throws a spanner in the works, as even the best laid plans can go awry, and do for our protagonists.
Kaede fails to anticipate the lengths to which Lord Fujiwara would go to in order to avenge being slighted by the girl he considers to be his property, marrying someone else against his wishes. Subsequently, Takeo’s hopes of taking on the Otori and avoiding confrontation with Lord Arai’s forces are derailed as he is compelled to get Kaede out of her predicament, as a matter of urgency.
Although there are very few surprises, Brilliance Of The Moon, is a satisfying conclusion to Lian Hearn’s epic tale of revenge, love, betrayal, duty, treachery, honour and destiny in the fictional land of the Three Countries. A happy ending is never in doubt for Takeo and Kaede, although neither one attains it unscathed.
There is little to find fault with in the novel. It contains the same beautiful prose and fast moving narrative that epitomised the previous two books of the series. It was also a pleasant surprise for me that my favourite character, Shizuka, is given significantly more “page time” than in the previous book. In fact, a number of chapters are narrated from her point of view, which has the added bonus of revealing even more about her character and back-story. I certainly consider Shizuka to be the most intriguing character of the trilogy, and I can only wonder at how good, a story with her as the protagonist, would be.
The only real complaint I have with Brilliance Of The Moon, though it probably won’t bother most other readers, is that the death of a character whom I had enjoyed during the earlier books was handled in such a throwaway manner. This character’s death is not even shown; readers are simply told that the death has occurred prior to certain events. It felt remarkably like a character in a film or TV show being killed off-screen.
In summation, I have no difficulty in recommending Brilliance Of The Moon, and its two predecessors to prospective readers in search of a fantasy yarn inspired by Japanese folklore. And though the Young Adult demographic is the intended audience for the books, Lian Hearn writes so wonderfully well that her Tales Of The Otori should be just as compelling for adult readers, also.
Telling it like it is. Giving you honest and balanced, spoiler free reviews. Completely devoid of irrational fanboyism, or shameless astroturfing.