84 points, 4 ¼ stars


Both Takeo and Kaede have visions of their future. Takeo works to escape the Tribe and fulfill the last wishes of his adoptive father, Lord Shigeru Otori. And Kaede, heir to two seats of power, moves forward step by step, aided by her own wits and a precarious alliance with Lord Fujiwara. In their separate worlds, the two long for each other, knowing that they are meant to be together, wondering if they will ever see each other again. . . .


“Death comes suddenly and life is fragile and brief. No one can alter this either by prayers or spells.”


Grass for His Pillow is a bit of a middle child. The Tales of the Otori series was originally planned as a trilogy. It moved a bit past that. So the events in this book were planned ahead of time, and nothing really happened.

The majority of this book featured recovery from the events in the previous book and planning for the events in the next book. A prophecy is introduced, centered around the main character Takeo. It outlines what is going to happen in the next few books. So this book doesn’t have a lot that happens for the sake of it happening in this book. It feels slow, and it feels like it is going nowhere. Yet it feels intriguing while it does it.

Even more than the previous book, Grass for His Pillow is steeped in Japanese culture and history. There is just more of it than before. And it tells the beginning of a time of a massive shift in the country’s history. This really is the strongest part of the series.

Yet it is also about the empowerment of women in a man’s world. Kaede is just as much a main character as Takeo is. They split the narration between their stories. She may even be more important in this book than the rest of the series. Kaede is fighting against the traditions that hold women back. She is fighting to become respected as a person, because women are thought of more as commodities to own.

I liked it. I thought it was better written than the first, even. I just thought more could have been done to make this book feel like its own book. I’m enjoying the series.