At the recommendation of your friend and mine, Imani, I have begun reading Across the Nightingale Floor the first part of the Tales of the Otori series, a fantasy set in a historical Japan-like place. Barely twenty pages in, this book is action-packed, the characters compelling, the new set of vocabulary I need to negotiate this fantastical world is seamlessly interwoven with the story, which already has me completely in its grip. The writing is spare and excellent. In the opening (this is a spoiler but happens within the first 10 pages), Takeo, a young boy, returns to his village to find it attacked by a rival tribe:
The village was deserted. I could not imagine where everyone had gone. I told myself they had run away: My mother had taken my sisters to the safety of the forest. I would go and find them just as soon as I had found out who was screaming. But as I stepped out of the alley into the main street I saw two men lying on the ground. A soft evening rain was beginning to fall and they looked surprised, as though they had no idea why they were lying there in the rain. They would never get up again, and it did not matter that their clothes were getting wet.
One of them was my stepfather.
As that moment the world changed for me. A kind of fog rose before my eyes, and when it cleared nothing seemed real. I felt I had crossed over to the other world, the one that lies alongside our own, that we visit in dreams. My stepfather was wearing his best clothes. The indigo cloth was dark with rain and blood. I was sorry they were spoiled: He had been so proud of them.