Book review: Scions of the Black Lotus (collection)

My continuation with J.C. Kang’s fantasy world led me to this collection of shorter stories, though this “collection” acts pretty much as a single 800-page story as the individual stories folow one right into another.

Cover of the first story

The Scions of the Black Lotus collection is made up of 8 stories:

  • Thorn of the Night Blossoms
  • White Sheep of the Family
  • Interlude
  • Wretches of the Trench
  • Temptress of Fates
  • Last Heir of the North
  • Second Interlude
  • Last Bloom of the Jade Lotus

The stories aren’t the same length, though. The first two are ~100 pages each, the interlude is chapter-sized, then the next three are slightly above 100, the second intrlude is the size of maybe 4 chapters, and the last takes a quarter of the collection.

The plot focuses on Jie’s past, but also showcases a few other characters and gives some background for what was before the main series, Dragon Songs.

In this collection, Jie is already a decent spy though not as skilled when it comes to her cover as courtesan-in-training. Her friend, Lillian, seems to be the exact opposite. As it tends to be in Kang’s world, treachery doesn’t take long to appear and both Jie and Lillian seem to be the targets, along with a minor lord who may be the key to keeping the political situation stable.

Cover of the fourth story

It’s quite a challenge to give anything about the plot without outright spoilers for the first story, but the events of the first story are the initiator for the rest as Jie delves into the hints that may lead her to exposing the truth and the reasons behind the tragic events of the first story. The story also sets up Tian, who also plays a role in Dragon Songs.

Tian is major factor in the enjoyiment of the story – while Jie is highly practical, especially when hands-on approach, Tian is quite the opposite. Exiled son of a noble, he struggles with the harsh reality, and his reaction when he realizes the truth about Kang’s world – quoting “the realm’s economy seemed to run on men’s urges and women’s vanity” – which doesn’t seem to be too different from real-world politics in any time in history or present.

Anyway, Tian’s strength is in his sharp mind, which is something that will help Jie and the others to expose the truth about what’s going on.

The first five stories are linear, but the sixth brings a change: as Jie, Tian, and their companions capture someone with ties to the past events, the story becomes a mix of present and looks into the past, leading to a steady flow of backstory that reveals the differences between Jie and Lillian, the truth about Lillian’s origin, and hot it plays into the plot at hand. I guess this is one of the reason why the final story is twice as long, as it has to wrap up two plot lines.

What the book doesn’t reveal is the details of Tian’s banishment, so I guess I’ll have to search the other side-stories for that.

Read date: 22.2.-19.3.2021
Published: during 2019 (individual stories) / March 2020 (current edition of the collection)
Goodreads/Amazon links (for the collection)
My rating: 85%
Length: 829 pages (Kindle/collection)
My highlights

The stories keep pretty much the same style as with Kang’s other books, and if you’d read any other book of his, then you know what to expect. As this story focuses on Jie, it’s more on the explicit side, though.

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