The year is 907 A.D. The Tang Dynasty is ending and life is hard in China. Ava cares nothing for China, at a young age she was kidnapped and sold to a brothel as a sex slave. She hopes to save her children and escape the brothel. Things don’t go as planned and she is left with little hope.
With things at their worst, Ava gets a visit from Jigong, the beggar god. Jigong needs her help to save China. Ava agrees to help but now she is breaking one of Heaven’s most sacred laws in conspiring with a god. She is a fugitive to Heaven and China even though she is trying to save them both. To make matters worse The most feared deity of them all, Zhong Kui the hunter god is stalking her.
The real horror in Dark Blossom by Vincent Stoia didn’t come from the demons and ghosts that are in China. The true horror was watching Ava deal with the day-to-day real life horrors. Some of the people in this story that she deals with were far more scary than any supernatural being.
Dark Blossom has its human and supernatural monsters. The people such as Liu the main villain and Shadow show they have a much greater capacity for evil than anything in the underworld. In my favorite part of the book a vengeful demon comes into the Brothel where Ava lives and we get to hear what the demon thinks. The demon can sense the evil in the brothel and wishes to leave. Shadow who runs the brothel doesn’t see herself as evil but the demon does. You could take the demons and ancient gods out of this book and still have an effective horror novel.
Another thing that I enjoyed in this book was how the supernatural and the real world were connected. All of the demons in Dark Blossom were once human and it was something tragic that happened to them that made them what they are. One girl becomes a demon because her baby was killed and she cursed the village and came back as a demon. Its hard not to feel sympathy for the evil spirits in this book. In the beginning we here Zhong Kui’s story, he was wronged by the Chinese government and went crazy killing people in the Imperial palace. He comes back as a demon hunter who walks the earth to slay other demons and spirits that have escaped the underworld. Despite the fact that he is a demon he still cares for humans. As he walks the streets of a village and sees how poor the people are he wonders why the government wont help but he is doomed to protect the empire. When he hears that his new mission is to hunt and destroy Ava, he feels bad for what he must do.
Ava is an excellent character, in a time when women weren’t supposed to be strong, she is tough, caring and intelligent. Life was always tough or Ava but she still manages to do the right thing and doesn’t lose hope even though there is a voice in the back of her head telling her life will never get better. Two scenes that I loved in this book was when Ava grabs a sword and goes after the much bigger Liu and when she is in the underworld and questions the gods. Real life is scarier than anything supernatural and Ava has to deal with it all. Dark Blossom brings Ancient China and Chinese mythology to life in one great horror novel that shouldn’t be missed.