The Judas Blossom is an ambitious, majestic and brutal historical fantasy read that impresses throughout. The novel skilfully covers an era, areas, and cultures that are not typical with fantasy novels or historical retellings.
Set in the 13th century, we follow four main point of view perspectives: Hulagu (a warlord), Kokochin (one of his many wives), Temujin (a son he is ashamed of), and Kaivon (a Persian General). All of these characters are major influences on whether the Mongol empire’s plans to encompass the whole world come to fruition or are derailed. Honestly, there is not a subpar viewpoint in The Judas Blossom. Each individual presents their agendas, ideals, weaknesses, and plans, so the drama and stakes are significantly heightened as the novel progresses. I felt engaged and active as a reader, becoming quite smug seeing events and problems certain players were not privy to. In addition, it was a rewarding experience predicting how affairs could play out, with the many webs of influence and deceit in play.
My advanced review copy of The Judas Blossom was approximately 450 pages long and was brimming with excellent action scenes, sieges, confrontations, barbed verbal exchanges, political intrigue, deception, and cleverness. It is often a violent and unforgiving tale, especially when viewing the action that surrounds Hulagu. There are assassins, political factions, secret societies, and a magic scheme similar to R.R. Virdi’s The First Binding. As The Judas Blossom is the first in a series, we learn about how the magic works as the users figure it out themselves, with the true potential and possibilities more likely to appear in the follow-up entries. The magic seems intriguing though and I look forward to witnessing the capabilities further down the line in this epic story.
I picked up The Judas Blossom knowing little about the historical period that it presents. I have no doubt that this is a well-researched and carefully crafted project, that I envisage will delight historians and aficionados who focus on this time period. A couple of nuggets from history such as mentions of Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan made me smile when I acknowledged them and I fell down the Google rabbit hole a couple of times, intrigued to see if certain members of Aryan’s dramatis personae are based on fact or are fictional.
As a work of fiction though, The Judas Blossom is a riveting tale, set in a dynamic world that is equally beautiful and terrifying. It is gripping, the characters are great and there are no filler chapters (which is surprising for epic fantasy and especially the first books in a series). Also, the novel ends in a compelling manner and this has guaranteed that I will read the next release as soon as I can.
I have very little criticism regarding my reading experience. If I had to say something along those lines, occasionally the flow of some passages seemed a little awkward, perhaps ending abruptly where the rhythm didn’t quite resonate with me. Even with that considered, The Judas Blossom is an excellent first entry into an exciting new epic fantasy series. The characters, action scenes, political intrigue, and trickery present here will make many grimdark readers extremely happy. – 8.5/10
Review copy from Angry Robot Books and Stephen Aryan in exchange for an honest review.