The Harsh Cry of the Heron Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 62 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Harsh Cry of the Heron.
This section contains 462 words
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The Harsh Cry of the Heron Summary & Study Guide Description

The Harsh Cry of the Heron Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Gillian Rubinstein.

The Harsh Cry of The Heron by Lian Hearn is a fantasy novel set in a fictional version of the Far East, and in particular the island of Japan (known here as the Three Countries). This book occupies the last 'spot' in Hearn's cycle, The Tales of the Otori, that began with Across The Nightingale Floor and the arrival of our protagonist, Otori Takeo.

Otori Takeo is now the leader of the Three Countries (something similar to a shogun), who has been ruling the land peacefully for a number of years whilst he attempts to raise his daughters Shigeko (the eldest) and the young twins Maya and Miki with his wife Kaede. During his reign he has managed to maintain control over the Tribe (the clans and the bloodlines of the ninja-like assassins from which he himself is descended), while attempting to bring justice in the form of religious tolerance and gender equality. For the most part, the book starts with a peaceful reign and the idea that he has been successful.

Unbeknownst to Takeo, his illegitimate son Hisao has now come of age and is living with his sworn enemy Kikuta Akio (the Master of the Kikuta family), who is training him how to kill his father. Even though he has none of the overt magical Tribe skills himself, the son actually has the ability to contact the spirit world, and the know-how to use and make firearms.

Into the middle of this seething plot, Takeo receives word from the God Emperor of the Eight Islands that his overthrow of the previous warlord is unlawful and that, unless he abdicates immediately, the emperor's own general will be conducting an invasion. Knowing that all he can do is act diplomatically, Takeo is advised to act according to the way of peace (the religion of the realm) and takes himself and his retinue to the God Emperor's court in an attempt to placate him and prove his worth as a vassal of the Three Countries. While there Takeo has to undergo a challenge for the right to rule his realm, as well as having to face the treacheries of his most powerful liege lord back in the Three Countries. The ending is one of high tragedy, in which Takeo is forced to realize that a man can never out run his fate, and that the sins of the father are always revisited upon the land that he may govern.

Written in an engaging style that uses many elements with which we are familiar (wuxia Kungfu, Hong Kong Style martial arts, Far Eastern legends), The Harsh Cry of the Heron is an imaginative and grand epic that attempts to present this genre to the reader in a new, fantastical way.

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