Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for this review.
Told through Jie’s eyes, the story unfolds at a steady pace as she is attacked in a variety of ways; from people intent on both killing her and a nobleman who patronizes her house, to the lead courtesan at a rival house who is jealous that Jie threatens to surpass her in terms of the value placed on her virginity. In fact, it is this woman who arguably does the greater damage between the two, since her machinations set Jie up to be raped and considered a willing participant.
Jie is equal parts strong and vulnerable, especially in the wake of the assault. She is strong-willed but, as her friend and lover points out, this can have unintended consequences on those around her. The idea that her insistence on handling problems herself is inadvertently holding her sisters back comes as both a shock and an eye-opener to her. It’s something that can be easily seen in hindsight and yet not something I can recall being used very often.
The action scenes are well done, unsurprising since the author is a martial artist. Given Jie’s training, she is capable of some remarkable feats, and yet it is written in such a way as to make it both believable and easy to visualize.
Although the story is set almost exclusively within the environs of the Floating World, there are hints of the greater world beyond, including references to other species. Jie’s half-elf nature, which includes some very useful night vision, enhanced senses of smell and hearing and accelerated healing, is referred to a number of times. Similarly, there are references to dwarf-made items. No real background is given to these; they are just dropped into the narrative and left to the reader’s imagination, which is something I particularly liked. It adds to the world but without bogging down the story with superfluous details.
At 93 pages, Thorn of the Night Blossoms is both a great introduction to this world and a novella that could easily be consumed in a couple of hours. Bear in mind, however, that it does not stand alone. While there is a resolution of sorts at the end, there are a number of unanswered questions left hanging to be picked up in further instalments.
4 out of 5 stealth suits.