JC Kang's unhealthy obsession with Fantasy and Sci-Fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor, and technical writer to pen epic fantasy stories.
A short tale (novella length) about assassins posing as prostitutes in an Asian setting.
This one really drops you in it. There are a lot of terms and names flying around in the first chapter. So many that, without any prior knowledge of the setting (I think this is part of a much larger world the author is creating), it took me to the end of the first chapter before I had my bearings. Things were a lot smoother after that once I had gotten my head around what everything is called and the like.
We follow a half-elf assassin named Jia who is posing in a pleasure house to gather information and the like for her clan. She's head strong and loyal and and suffers from bouts of overconfidence that may well jeapordise everything.
It's a novella so there's limited character development but what we do get is very good. The plot obviously whips along at break neck pace, and so a lot of the information we need is dropped as exposition. It stands out a bit, but then it's a novella so you have to expect it.
It was fun a listen and the narrator did an excellent job. I'm looking forward to novellas 2 and 3... and luckily I was provided with all three so I'll be jumping straight in to book 2. I might do a longer review once I've gone through them all.
Although far from what I expected, this is a phenomenally told tale that seems to start the process of setting the stage for Mr. Kang's Dragon Songs Saga.
This was my first exposure to narrator Natalie Naudus and I have to say I'm damned impressed! Her voices are fantastic, and even the male voices are at least somewhat believable. Her vocal inflections are expertly crafted, and her tempo shifts are subtle but effective.
Now, before I go farther do note that I have NOT read the Dragon Songs Saga, so naturally there are likely to be nuances and Easter eggs that I have missed. But especially for such a short book the character development here is absolutely fantastic.
Within just a few minutes I felt I had a keen grasp of who Jie is and what she's about.
Of course, then I was introduced to the east Asian-inspired spy network that forms the backdrop of this series and I realized that nothing is going to be what it seems!
There is some incredible world building here and the culture is quite fascinating.
There are so many twists and reversals throughout this short book that it's easy to become lost in them. Every time you think you know what's going on, something changes everything all over again.
Normally I have criticisms of pretty much every book, but honestly without feeling nitpicky the only thing I can say is I wish it had been longer!
And finally, the ending came together beautifully. Perhaps a tad abrupt, but that's to be expected in a novella. Everything was set up perfectly and I was left kicking myself for not seeing it coming.
I definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy Eastern-themed fantasy, those who enjoy spy thrillers, those who enjoy quick and snappy pacing in their fantasy, and especially to those who are fascinated by morally gray characters.
"The Floating World, named because it was where a man's dreams took flight, provided all kinds of entertainment at any budget."
This is going to be a mini review, as we are talking about a novella, so I don't want to spoil it much. I went into Thorn of the Night Blossoms without any knowledge of the series. Thorn of the Night Blossoms is the prequel story to the Dragon Songs Saga, featuring a readers' favorite, Jie.
Jie and Lilian are both living in the Floating World and belong to the same house. While Lilian is already a Blossom - she is allowed to entertain men and earn money for the House -, Jie is only a Floret, waiting for her deflowering to be a Blossom. But they are much more than feeble courtesans. They are also honed assassins, who serve the Empire by trying to unravel treason and complete other missions the clan gives them.
One day Jie finds herself and the clan threatened by unknown forces and decides to take matters into her hands, trying to figure out who is behind the attacks on her - is it a personal grudge or someone discovered the clan? What she doesn't expects is that the person behind it all plays on her biggest weakness.
With its 93 pages, Thorn of the Night Blossoms is a perfect afternoon read which you can blow through in one sitting. Kang's writing is solid and engaging. He is obviously well versed in Asian culture - which is not much of a surprise taking his background. The Floating World reminded me of the Japanese pleasuring quarters, the Houses and the society inside the quarter of the Geishas. Jie and Lilian are like Ninja Geishas practically, and we witness Jie using her skills quite a few times in this action packed tale about love, revenge and treason.
I found it a bit hard to connect with the characters personally, and that affected my enjoyment of reading Thorn of the Night Blossoms. The focus was more on the action and the plot rather than the characters - which doesn't mean it was bad. Especially if you like fast paced reads with a mystery to solve and a twist you didn't see coming.
I would have liked to learn more about Jie's fae heritage, about why does it make her so different - it keeps being mentioned that she is exotic, but I don't know, there was something missing for me. Maybe because this is the first time I've read about her and I don't know much about her past. What I found interesting however was the relationship between Jie and Lilian. I've been reading some Asian inspired historical fiction in my time and while love between males weren't such unusual occurences, similar relationships between females are hardly discussed. This might be thanks to my limited reading experiences in said culture, though. When it comes to Asian inspired fantasy and/or historical fiction, the focus is most of the time on the samurais and warriors. Maybe the only exception is Mulan's story which got widely known even in the Western world - partly thanks to Disney. But I went off topic here. Anyway, it's refreshing to read Asian inspired fiction with a focus on female characters.
Thorn of the Night Blossoms is a good entry point into JC Kang's world. Whether you only just get to know the Dragon Songs Saga series or you already read one the books and you are interested to learn more about Jie's past, you won't be disappointed.
I heard about this series through a Facebook ad, which I’m usually quite dubious about....but this was fantastic ! Think the Kushiels Dart Series, but set in Ancient a China, and switch around the proportions of assassination training and BDSM. The result is a novella, well crafted and amazingly fleshed out. I’m in love!
Thank you to the author, J.C. Kang, for sending me an e-ARC to review!
I really enjoyed this book and agree with other reviewers that it certainly is a fresh take on the spy narrative. There’s Asian characters and also LGBTQ+ representation, which made me feel seen, as a Chinese person who is bicurious. The worldbuilding was fascinating and really immersive, but then there were the plot twists! I only saw them coming right before they happened and it was still shocking. The romance was steamy, but also didn’t detract from the overall narrative and vengeance was served like a hot casserole dish, haha. This short novella was fast-paced and I was able to finish it in one sitting, which was great! I was in a bit of a reading slump, so I’m glad I was able to read a short book and feel accomplished. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy (especially with a half-elf character who likes both men and women).
#ThornOfTheNightBlossoms is a novella and the first in a 6-book-long series. The #ScionsOfTheBlackLotusSeries . It is a wonderful mix of Geishas, Ninjas and Assassins and plays in an Asian inspired world that has magical creatures like Fae or in the case of our protagonist Half-Fae.
When going into this book you have to keep in mind that this is a novella - a short book with only 163 pages. So, you should not expect a whole lot of character development - there simply isn’t the time for that - or lengthy introductions and explanations. You are thrust into this fantastical world without warning and you have to learn everything while the story progresses really quick! If you accept all this, then you are going to have a great time reading this book - as did I!
The whole Geisha/ concubine topic fascinated me and in a way the book reminded me of #GirlsOfPaperAndFire - but I enjoyed ToTNB much more. We follow half-elf orphan Jie who is an undercover assassin pretending to be a courtesan and soon after the book starts things start happening. There’s an assassination attempt, there is a catfight with another courtesan, there is fighting, there is forbidden love, the main character is pretty badass with a knife and soon we learn that there is an intruige going on and not everyone seems to be who they pretend to be.
I find it hard to write a review that properly explains what is going on without spoiling what is actually happening, but what I can say is that I really enjoyed this one and I flew through the book within 2 or 3 days and I was so caught up in it that I even forgot to regularly update my reading status…
The only point where I would deduct a star is the romance. The main character is bisexual and there was one steamy scene that was really good, but the romance with one character fell a bit flat for me, because I didn’t have enough context surrounding the feelings and how the emotions came to be etc. Plus, in the end the whole thing turned out to be… complicated. I am not sure whether this romance even has a future in the next books, but if these feelings would be revisited, I am hoping for a little more context and feelings.
I had so much fun reading this book!! Thank you JC Kang & BOMM Tours for providing me with a copy! I loved how invested I was in the story by how fast I was flying through the chapters! I was intrigued by Jie's world and the life she lived in so I was trying to soak up as much info as I can despite being a bit overwhelmed by all the terminologies but I quickly got the hang of it and the setting was so well-described that I can vividly imagine the scenes! Tho my heart breaks for all the girls' way of life 💔 Jie & Lillian's relationship was so pure and heartwarming, I couldn't help but root for them! Overall, I loved that the author gave us a well-written story with good pacing filled with amazing characters, heartwrenching conflicts and twists in just a short amount of pages! I still have so many questions especially with Jie's elf heritage and what comes next in her journey 🥺 I'm definitely diving straight into the next books 🙈 TW: sex work, rape
Thorn of the Night Blossoms is a fast-paced, exciting novella, part of JC Kang's Legends of Tivara.
The story revolves around Jie, a half-elf, and her companion Lilian, who live in the Floating World. There, they are part of a house of courtesans, where most women earn their keep by offering their bodies to men. Jie, however, is yet to be "deflowered," but she is busy enough with her other trade - as a spy and assassin of the Black Lotus Clan.
As things unfold, Jie finds herself the target of an assassination attempt, and she begins to investigate who might be behind it. And before this novella ends, there is a wicked, well-executed twist. This is an entertaining read, with just the right amount of description to paint the picture of a fabulous Asian-inspired universe, with colours, scents, and sounds included, and it is absolutely gorgeous. The only thing I struggled with a bit was the number of terms thrown at you early on, so I found it a little challenging to keep up initially.
But all in all, a great little read, with plenty of worldbuilding, depth of character, and blood-pumping action!
I’m super surprised with how much I enjoyed this, it was really really good, full of action, shocks, and twists and turns that I didn’t expect from such a short book. Don’t let the cover deceive you, this was a great sapphic fantasy read about female assassins in hiding!
J. C. Kang is a name I’ve seen circulating around. Fellow reviewers have mentioned The Dragon Songs Saga, praising the worldbuilding and characters, among other elements of that quadrilogy. It’s fair to say, I’ve been looking for the right time to pick up any one of his works. When he contacted booknest.eu with the specific request that I review his latest in a series of novellas, the time seemed only right to carve out an hour and a half and get through what turned out to be a delightfully kinetic 93-page dive into a world reminiscent of medieval China…but with an exotic half-elf courtesan/spy taking the lead!
I do love those pointy-eared lads and lasses.
Thorn of the Night Blossoms is an excellent introduction to a world that’s beautiful and hideous in equal parts. This is best illustrated by “The Floating Wind”, the finest among many houses of pleasure both in its riches and in its finely trained girls. But the splendor and finery hide a cutthroat world of flesh peddling, information trade and manipulations both physical and magical in nature. The women of “The Floating Wind” are trained in the art of seduction from young girls but that’s far from the only skillset they learn; from a secret sign language to a myriad of abilities that would make a ninja blush, both in combat and outside it.
Our half-elven main character is Jie, the finest (or at least, most talented) operative produced by the Black Lotus clan in recent years. To the eyes of the uninitiated, however, she’s a Floret, a young woman who is still a virgin. But even then, Jie is special; because of her exotic blood and looks, hers is the most valuable “virgin price” not only in “The Floating Wind” but in all the province. Jie’s closest friend is Lillian, a girl a year younger but already the favourite concubine of the powerful provincial Lord Ting, whose influence and knowledge offer the Black Lotus clan access to information that’s far too valuable to take into account the feelings of one scared young girl. But Jie, though loyal to the clan, is looking for a way to save her friend from a life of pain and misery. When someone tries to kill Jie, however, life gets even more complicated. Not knowing whether she’s the sole target of the assassination attempt or merely the victim of a first strike against the Black Lotus, Jie is forced to take things into her own hands. Mystery and murder make for magnificent mayhem, everyone!
Reading through the excellent action scenes, I was willing to bet that J. C. Kang knew from personal experience much of what he wrote about and no surprise, he is a martial artist. He’s got a firm grasp on the characters’ movements, on every blow they deliver, on every shot and slice they make. Kinetic is a word I’ve already used but it’s more than fitting for Thorn of the Night Blossoms. My score for Thorn of the Night Blossoms is 4/5 stars on Goodreads! This is an excellent novella, and the first of three in a series, which I am curious to read. A mystery has been solved but another is left to be resolved later and I’m more than curious to see what trials Jie faces next.
You’ll want to read this if: • You’re looking for a work of fantasy that’s distinctly inspired by Asian-Chinese culture; • You’re looking for an excellent female protagonist; • remarkable action, well-described and engaging; • half-elven hotness! It costs loadsa $$$, apparently! • And more! Prob’ly.
Thorn of the Night Blossoms is near enough everything I could have hoped for going into it. Being of novella length, it has to build the world and introduce the characters quickly, so there is a lot to grasp early on. This is done well, although this could have been expanded on, bringing more to the world-building. There is easily the potential for a full length novel here and I would have happily read more. Due to the short length, the focus is naturally on the action and narrative mean that there are aspects of character and world building that felt slightly undeveloped.
That said, I found the world you are dropped into here fascinating and I was very much drawn into the world. From the moment you meet Lilian and Jie, you can’t help but feel for them; particularly Lilian who is trapped in the world of a courtesan against her will as she is seen as having no better use to the Black Lotus Clan. I felt that the Clan itself could have been expanded on, as whilst it is easy to empathise with Lilian’s despair and need to escape a life she wouldn’t have chosen for herself, the Clan itself remains as a shadowy backdrop to the story. You are aware of the training they undertake to become a courtesan assassin, but the relationship between the characters felt deeper than the ties to the Clan itself.
This is a quick read, but it’s also one that is immersive and twisty. I’d have enjoyed more meat to the tale, but that would be understandably difficult to include whilst keeping the novella length. I certainly found the writing style engaging and will look forward to reading the next in the series.
Content Warnings for the book: violence, gore, magically coerced sex (rape), sex work (portrayed in a positive light)
Representation: Chinese coded cast of characters, bisexual main character
Thorn of the Night Blossoms is a tantalising story with spies, assassins and a unraveling plot of that puts everything that Jie has worked for in peril. At 20 years old, Jie is the de facto leader of the Black Lotus members embedded it various houses of the Floating Islands. Due to her fey ancestry (she is half-elf), her body has heightened senses, dark vision, and youth that has allowed her to remain ‘unplucked’, thus increasing the bid for her virginity.
This story wastes no time getting started (which is good considering its shorter length). While we lose a bit of the expository world building, the scenery feels lush and immersive, the background an East-Asian-inspired fantasy creation that's best described as Memoirs of a Geisha meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It took me a couple chapters to acquaint myself with the terminology, but past that point, I was all in. The action is immediate, slowing only slightly to allow for character development and romance. Jei is relatable, but epic in her own right. If I found one fault with the writing, it was that I wished to have more time with each of the characters. Even the secondary and tertiary characters left me wanting more.
I'd have loved for this to be a full-length novel, however, the novella feels complete. There's no cliff-hanger ending, but I'm left with just enough questions to have me looking forward to the next installment. In all, I'd recommend this for anyone looking for a quick fantasy read with lgbtq+ themes, an East-Asian flair, and lots of action.
Thank you Book of Matches Media and J.C. Kang for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
A short easy read, only the size of a novella, this is an action packed Asian fantasy with courtesans and assassins.
The strong point of this story is not the characters, but in the action and description. This world is rich in flavor and detail, and following the main character's movements and fights through various locales is great. If you're a fan of thieves/assassins in media and want to read some very well written sneaky segments with great combat, then pick this up.
This is not to say the story is bad, the characters are a little flat but nothing horrible or cliche, it is a very short read so I cannot expect a lot of character development. The story and mystery are good enough backdrops to the action, and the characters fit it well.
If the setting, story, or assassins interest you, pick this up, it's really cheap and a good quick read.
THORN OF THE NIGHT BLOSSOMS is book 1 in the 6 book series Scions of the Black Lotus. Overall for book 1, I am at 3.5/4 ⭐️
This is definitely different than what I am used to reading.. but once I got started it went by very quick. The world building grew as the story progressed which I really enjoyed. Jia was a very interesting character. She wanted to excel as an assassin but also had love for her sisters and would protect them with her life. As the story goes there is a plot uncovered to assinate the emperor and Jia must uncover who is behind this and why. There were many twists and turns and omg’s when this book comes to a close that left me wanting to know answers. I will definitely keep going in the series. I feel the story and characters will just continue to grow and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next turn!
I haven't read any of the other books written by J.C. Kang until now. When I read the description, I thought it sounded ridiculous, but I gave it a chance: " traditional fantasy fare with an Asian-inspired world, bringing fresh life to old tropes. Thorn of the Night Blossoms gives us spies, lies, and courtesans, keeping readers guessing and engrossed until the very last pages"
I really enjoyed the characters as they were introduced, and the day I started it, I purchased the rest of the series.
The big, difficult choice that Jie makes at the end of Act II is to remain loyal to the Black Lotus Clan instead of to Lilian. When the story reveals that all the events in Acts I and II were actually Lilian's plan of escape, Jie decides she needs to catch Lilian and turn her in rather than let her go.
This decision falls extremely flat.
This short story did not develop Jie's relationship with the Black Lotus Clan at all, which means I don't understand and don't care about her loyalty.* There are a couple sentences (literally two) telling us the Clan took her in when she was an orphan and the master of the Clan is her adopted father. This is a perfectly good reason to be loyal to the Clan, but the story needed to spend more time showing and developing Jie's relationship. Two sentences are objectively not enough to establish character. In contrast, there are many, many descriptions of Jie's romantic and sexual love for Lilian. This is great storytelling, and I really believed the depth of their connection. The author does a great job establishing the strength of that relationship. Because the story spends so much more time developing the relationship between Jie and Lilian, however, Jie's eventual decision to choose the Clan over Lilian is very unsatisfying and frustrating. Based on the character development up to that point, it would have been much more satisfying for Jie to support Lilian than to antagonize her. The theme of "choosing clan over love" could be interesting, but this story only sets up the love, not the clan, which is why the eventual choice falls so flat.
*This is the only book in this series I have read. It's possible that other stories in this series develop Jie's backstory with the Clan more, and therefore other readers may not have this problem.
I genuinely did not see Lilian's betrayal coming! The author did a good job setting up and executing the twist.
I really hate the automatic crossbow, the "Repeater," which plays a prominent role in the story.......... repeatedly. Everyone knows automatic crossbows are not a thing and also a classic awful fantasy trope. Every time a character mentioned the "Repeater," I groaned audibly, rolled my eyes, and liked the story a little less.
I really disliked the Black Lotus Clan and felt like I didn't understand the org's incentives/motivations. From the jump, the story establishes that Lilian hates sex work and desperately wants out. She feels trapped, like she needs to take extreme measures to get away. Thus, from the very first moment, I have many questions about why the Black Lotus Clan exploits its sexy ninjas, why it trafficked Lilian against her will. Does the organization not care about consent? If it doesn't, what incentives motivate it to exploit its women? Why doesn't Lilian feel comfortable going to the Clan to tell it her feelings? The story implies that the Clan is exploitative and evil. I don't understand the Clan's motivations, and it seems like a group of not very cool people. This is yet another reason why Jie's decision to remain loyal to the Clan instead of to support Lilian is extremely unsatisfying. I don't like or understand the Clan, and therefore I don't like Jie. Mission not accomplished.
You know what seems like an extremely bad idea? Training a woman to be an elite assassin ninja from a very young age, and then trafficking her into sex work against her will. The best possible outcome here is a Kill Bill-style vengeance quest. Does the Clan and not see this coming? If not, that is yet another reason why Jie's choice to prioritize an incompetent organization over the love of her life makes no f****** sense.
I'm also wondering if the world-building is a rip-off of Kushiel's Legacy? Both books have prominent houses of prostitution named after flowers and spies who pose as courtesans therein. But Kushiel's Legacy came out 19 years earlier, and is also better in every way. These books seem strikingly similar, but it could be coincidence.
Representation and diversity: 5/10
This is a story about two queer, Asian women. I really appreciated the author's choice to center their stories. We need more non-white authors and non-white characters in high fantasy! We need more feudal East Asia stories! Even though I didn't like this story, I'm glad the author wrote it.
My low score for representation reflects my complaints above about how the Black Lotus Clan exploits and trafficks its ladies. I'm not interested in a story about an organization that trafficks women but the story frames that org as good. Deeply troubling.
Theme and literary devices: 5/10
I will give this story some credit: the theme of choosing clan over love is very clear. I've already stated, however, that it doesn't make sense and isn't satisfying for Jie to choose clan over love, which undermines the theme and weakens the story.
Even though the world need more fantasy stories set in East Asia, this story's take on elite ninja geishas didn't apply anything original to the trope, so it felt cliché.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A beautifully painted, masterfully crafted tale of love and self determination. I was expecting an fast and furious action tale but this is a slow burn fully realized drama. I wanted Mortal Kombat, and got Shawshank Redemption. In a word: wonderful.
What a wild ride! Jie is a beautiful assassin who must balance the wishes of her clan and the world of the Night Blossoms. This was a nice slice of the world and introduction to these character--very fast and easy read.
Good world development, the story had potential, unrealized potential, and it feels like a poorly researched male fantasy. (Spoilers are very minimal and just go over the basics).
First: the entire story felt disjointed, lacked flow, lacked emotional weight
Details important to the reader were missing. For example: where did those lock picks come from and why was the MC able to pick one Dwarven made lock but not the other?
Second: obviously this was written by a man with no knowledge of the female body (which, since this is set in a pleasure district, is extremely plot relevant). 1) the MC, despite being 20, is the physical maturity of a 6 or 8 year old despite having an adult's height. Aka: no boobs, no hips, no period, and thus (what the author forgot) no hormones! 2) despite the above the MC has a female lover, this is plot relevant and she's horny for her....HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? No sex hormones means no libido. And the reader recieves no explanation for this. Really feels like a male fantasy. 3) in the same vein, the rape scene shows the author's lack of knowledge of the pre-pubescent body. And yes ladies, there is a rape scene....odly enough with none of the emotional gravitas it's supposed to have per the plot. No sex hormones means the body isn't ready for penetration, even without that no lead up/prep means that the first time is PAINFUL and results in a significant amount of blood, and even without the sex hormones with out any preparation or lead up that is a dry p*sy. All of this means PAIN and blood. And yet that isn't covered at all. And there is time for it! 4)till he bleeds to death from castration, the male involved in the rape denies knowledge of it being rape and so forth so the reader is left feeling confused about if he's actually a villain or just a dumb tool.
Overall, this book feels like a rough draft. Should have been at least 1/3rd longer and better fleshed out AND the author should understand female biology much better than this for a story like this.
Thank you to @jc.kang and @bookofmatchesmedia for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
This novella is action packed from beginning to end and it gave me anxiety 😂 Jie is a half human, half elf, trained assassin that lives and works in a brothel. She has heightened senses (like she can smell what you ate from across the street), is extremely protective (almost to a fault), and is trying to prove herself to her clan so that she can move up in the ranks and out of her current location.
There’s a small deal of magic (that leads to a huge plot twist that made me so mad!) and lots of deception and betrayal, and I’m excited to see how it all plays out in the next few books!
Because it’s a novella, I don’t think I got to know Jie as well as I would have liked. The parts of her that I did get to understand were a bit annoying, like her blind spots and need to do everything on her own until the end, but I understood her at least and knew why she did those things. I’m hoping that as I continue the series I’ll get to understand her even better.
I don’t fully understand Lilian’s character. If she was trying to get out of the Night Blossoms why would she hide the abilities that would let her do so? If she was as talented as was to be believed at the end, then she severely limited what she showed everyone she could do, and there’s holding back so that people aren’t fully aware of what your capable of and then there’s HOLDING back so that people think you’re incompetent. And honestly, it’s her own fault that they were going to leave here there forever because they thought she was awful at everything else!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This story of a woman who trains young women how to please men who some are lords in a place called the floating cloud if I remember right. The young women so trained are called Night Blossoms who are also taught stealth, different methods of killing. The interaction of the characters kept me reading.