Half-elf Jie and Lilian appear to be mere courtesans of the Floating World, but they are sisters in a clan of assassins and spies which serves the Emperor. When Lilian’s abusive patron makes the work intolerable, Jie sets out on her own mission-to get Lilian reassigned.
Problem is, Lilian lacks adequate stealth and combat skills, and her patron, admired by all, holds the key to the empire’s stability.
The courtesans have always warred with wits and poetry, but with killers moving within the Floating World and traitors plotting a rebellion, Jie must decide her own loyalty-- to the Emperor or her best friend.
I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover and JC Kang nails it every time. I subscribed to his newsletter and he values the input of his fans. He regularly shares different covers to see which one resonates with us the most but I usually can’t pick a favourite. All of them are equally beautiful. I needed to have these gorgeous pieces, even if it was only as a digital copy on my virtual shelf. And now I finally gave myself time to read them too, Thorn of the Night Blossoms being the first book I’ll be reading from him.
I’ve always had an interest in Asian cultures so reading Asian inspired fantasy feels so good. Thorn of the Night Blossoms gave me similar vibes to Memoirs of a Geisha which seems like a weird comparison since one is a fantasy book and the other historical fiction. But the vibe Kang created of the companion district, the hierarchy between the geisha and her apprentices, it’s definitely comparable and just as cutthroat. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point there was a geisha house run by/with assassins.
Kang blends western fantasy elements like elves with historical Chinese elements and even someone who isn’t familiar with the latter gets a great introduction. He paints the setting beautifully and covers it with mysteries and enchanting symbolism. Even in this short book, he wastes no words. I didn’t get the feeling there was info-dumping or unnecessary exposition. The characters were interesting but the story was too short for significant character growth. I had the feeling this book is mostly a setup for the next one where more will happen.
I give Thorn of the Night Blossoms four stars. It’s a great start to an interesting series, and I’m looking forward to reading more of JC Kang. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Asian inspired fantasy.