The Harsh Cry of the Heron is the final book in the Tales of the Otori series. The series wasn’t written exactly linearly. The original trilogy was written first, then Harsh Cry (a sequel, set sixteen years after the trilogy finishes) and finally Heaven’s Net (a prequel, beginning sixteen years prior to the opening of the trilogy, but ends at the very same moment that the trilogy opens).
Note: this post can be said to contain spoilers for the Tales of the Otori series.
Recently, I have been reading so many new books and authors, that returning to the Otori was like having a dream about someone that had passed away. The Otori tales really had finished for me after the trilogy. I didn’t particularly like the first book when I originally read it–I couldn’t see what my parents and sister saw it in. Then I studied it in school two years later; I finally got it. I saw what the pull and the attraction was.
I didn’t put the books down until I finished the entire trilogy. (I even wrote a beautiful essay about it. I particularly like the metaphor used.) But that was that and the story was done.
Coming back to it six, almost seven, years later was a different experience. I knew these characters so well. The events of the trilogy slowly came back to me, but I didn’t really need to remember any of them. It was a new book, but felt like an old one. I felt like I was reading a Melina Marchetta novel*.
* Melina Marchetta makes you feel like her characters are actually your friends. I read her book and I feel like these people are actually a part of my life. I know her books and her characters so well, they could be my own family.
I really didn’t know how the book was going to end. I kept changing my mind. I think when reading the trilogy, I knew there was more story. Everything was going to be okay because it had to be–there was a sequel!
But like all people, characters can not live forever.
There really was no other way to end the series. Loose ends would have remained untied if Takeo lived. It didn’t matter he secluded himself, and had resigned himself to painting the birds surrounding the temple forever. His family tore itself apart for him–his magical girls were lost to each other, one killing their newborn brother, the other saving her twin before death; his eldest girl marrying as was required politically for the country he built; his wife hating him for his secret life as part of the magical tribe. Within a few days, his family crumbled about him and he could not save them.
The ending happened so quickly. But then again, isn’t that how all endings happen?