Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Book Review: The Harsh Cry of the Heron (Otori Trilogy Sequel) by Lian Hearn

Following on from the Tales of the Otori trilogy, The Harsh Cry of the Heron is basically the glue of all the important loose ends that the trilogy leaves fans dying to know. If you didn't like the trilogy then no way do you want to even go near this book, if you did however, set it on your reading list and continue on with an open mind! This review will be hard to write without spoilers given the nature of it being 16 years after the Otori trilogy, please bear that in mind when wondering about its vagueness. 

For details on what I'm currently reading you can find me on Goodreads.com HERE

(Image courtesy of Goodreads.com)
"Set in feudal Japan, The Harsh Cry of the Heron is a follow-up of the Otori Takes trilogy which takes on the fulfilment of Takeo's prophecy and the next stage of the Three Countries.

What’s good about it?
There's something wonderfully satisfying about seeing our favourite (and not so favourite) characters age in different ways. Even the secondary characters who we don't see much of in the book now have families which weave themselves gracefully in and out of the story as though they were there all along simply for that purpose. It's refreshing to see an author take on so many characters and guide us through most of their lifetime's so successfully without them losing their depth or being unrealistic.
The strong new characters we are introduced to are some of the best in the entire series. Their strength is indicative of how much the Three Countries have changed and it makes for very exciting reading, particularly in the storyline of Shigeko, Maya and Hisao. Hisao in particular has a very strong storyline which does not appear complex on the surface but when you've reflected on the book, transforms into something magic.
With the ending of the trilogy being rather Disneyfied, this book seeks to take that merriment and dangle it to rot from the nearest castle. It shows that even paradise can have it's unhappiness and that even the purest of love still has its barbs. It isn't a pleasant taste but it is a bitter one we've all known before and are familiar with; at first the not-so-perfect endings for some characters in this book are hard to take but on reflection, they are the perfect ending and a true representation of a traditional Japanese tragedy.

What isn't so great?
The single biggest problem I had with this book is that the sheer mass of characters within it feels overwhelming. Not only do we have our new characters but we have the children and grandchildren from lesser known families which are struggle to place and get in the way of the enjoyment. Add into the mix that you have a large amount of the original and older characters too and the result is so massive that not enough time is devoted to each character to really give them the depth they deserve and clearly have set in store. It wouldn't have been an awful idea to make a second trilogy (a trilogy-ception perhaps) following the younger generation as told by Shigeko and perhaps an opposing clan member or someone associated with the emperor.
My other big problem with this book was the change in character of Kaede. I missed hearing her story and I didn't understand a lot of the things that was going on with her from another perspective. Her character felt like an interruption rather than a person of interest and she seemed to only come into the story when it was convenient rather than being a solid presence. Coming from Hearn, this was a big disappointment as her skill to juggle many characters is very impressive, it's a shame that such a rich personality was hidden from us when the insight would have added so much more to the whole story, particularly the ending.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I would insist anyone who read the trilogy give it a read yet on the other, I want to protect them from this book since it's largely agonisingly depressing and a lot of the things we come to love in the trilogy are cut out in favour of answering all of our questions. If your curiousity doesn't have a hold on you, then perhaps give this book a miss. However, if like me you like seeing something through until the end, this book will leave you satisfied.

There is one last book to the Otori 'trilogy' which is the prequel, keep posted for my review on that in a couple of days time

(Read 27th June - 7th July, 2014) 

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