Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Heaven's Net Is Wide

Heaven's net is wide, but its mesh is fine - Lao Tsu

It's the first day of 2008 and I've just finished reading the so-called "first" book in the Tales of the Otori, an historical fantasy set in a mythical version of Japan. These books are written by Australian Gillian Rubinstein under the pseudonym of Lian Hearn. The series began as the Otori Trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and was then continued with "The Last Book" (The Harsh Cry of the Heron) and now "The First Book" (Heaven's Net is Wide).

I've had bad experiences in the past when fantasy authors try to extend a successful series with "bookend" tales which seem to tell the same stories from different perspectives - for example the Eddings' Polgara the Sorceress and Belgarath the Sorcerer. And to be honest although The Harsh Cry of the Heron was covering new ground and did "need" to be told, I was over the series at that point and disappointed by it - despite crying at the end. Okay, so that's a very conflicted response. Let's just say it was hard going to get through it, but it was worth putting in the effort.

When I was walking through a bookshop and found The Heaven's Net Is Wide I bought it out of obligation, to complete my collection. I felt that this one truly was going over old ground, as it is The First Book, starting at the very beginning of the tale in events that had already been spoken of in the original series. And once again, it was a bit hard for me to get into this one, but about halfway through I found myself turning the pages faster and faster.

These doubts and gripes that I write about are possibly more a sign of my waning interest in and patience for the "fantasy" genre, rather than in any weakness in the books. This is a very strong and captivating series, and this final installment tells the prelude tale magnificently and finishes right where the series originally began, leaving me wanting to read the whole cycle again, to make up for my poor memory.

I won't do it though. Ten years ago I might have, but not now. Too many books, too little time.

Happy new year,

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