Review: The Judas Blossom by Stephen Aryan


1260, Persia:

Due to the efforts of the great Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire covers a vast portion of the known world. In the shadow of his grandfather, Hulagu Khan, ruler of the Ilkhanate, is determined to create a single empire that covers the entire world. His method? Violence.

His youngest son, Temujin Khan, struggles to find his place in his father’s bloody rule. After another failure, Temujin is given one last chance to prove himself to Hulagu, who is sure there is a great warrior buried deep inside. But there’s something else rippling under the surface… something far more powerful and dangerous than they could ever imagine…

Reduced to the position of one of Hulagu’s many wives, the famed Blue Princess Kokochin is the last of her tribe. Alone and forgotten in a foreign land, Kokochin is unwilling to spend her days seeking out trivial pursuits. Seeking purpose, she finds herself wandering down a path that grants her more power than a wife of the Khan may be allowed.

Kaivon, the Persian rebel who despises the Mongols for the massacre of his people, thirsts for revenge. However, he knows alone he cannot destroy the empire. When given the opportunity to train under the tutelage of Hulagu, Kaivon must put aside his feelings and risk his life for a chance to destroy the empire that aims to conquer the world.


Stephen Aryan’s The Judas Blossom is a masterfully crafted epic historical fantasy novel, offering a captivating start to what promises to be an exceptional series, The Nightingale and the Falcon. Enriched by a diverse cast of characters, The Judas Blossom not only sheds light on the remarkable achievements of the Mongol empire but also addresses a notable literary gap. By infusing fantastical elements, the book distinguishes itself from the limited pool of historical fiction literature centered around the Mongol empire that I have read.

While the primary focus of the book is the military campaigns of the Mongol empire, The Judas Blossom narrative skillfully weaves a character-driven approach that immerses readers into the multifaceted dimensions of it’s world filled with power plays, rebellions, secrete societies, assassins and of course a little bit of magic. It is filled with brilliantly executed action sequences, gripping sieges, razor-sharp verbal duels between characters, intense confrontations, enthralling political intrigues and intricate webs of deception. Despite the pervasive violence and profound darkness inherent in its portrayal of an empire’s conquest, the remarkable brilliance with which every facet is penned draws readers into an irresistible bond with the characters. Personally, I loved multi POV narrative, as it granted me the privilege of perceiving the story from diverse angles.

Hulagu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, the brother of the Great Khan/Emperor and the ruler of the Ilkhanate, is a character that is deeply flawed, displaying a touch of narcissism coupled with a lack of empathy or compassion, had selective biases, particularly discriminating his overweight son, or favoritism toward his favorite wife Doquz. Nonetheless when it came to his military campaigns and as a ruler he was clever, shrewd, had a balanced head, offered everyone a fair chance despite their origins and had the capability of manipulative situations to advance his campaigns. He was unapologetically human.

Temujin, the youngest son of Hulagu, was portrayed beautifully. Often bullied by his father and brothers because of his weight and lack of interest in battle or swordplay, he is written as a soft and naive character who was struggling to know his place in life and in his father’s political arena. I personally love an underdog and Temujin stumbling upon powerful ancient magic that might make him such a powerful player in the story was a beautiful touch to the narrative.

Kaivon, a vanquished Persian (Iranian) general who finds himself entwined within Hulagu’s court, emerges as a formidable character of significant impact. Through his lens, the narrative unveils the harrowing chronicles of the Persian people, shedding light on the unspeakable atrocities endured. His presence is marked by a striking duality, possessing both the brilliance of a tactician capable of strategic subtlety – knowing precisely when to remain inconspicuous and when to unleash his calculated strikes – and a profound narrative vessel through which the reader gains insights into the suffering and resilience of his people.

Kokochin was my favorite character in The Judas Blossom. I personally loved how her story arc and character growth in the narrative. From being a helpless war orphan whose entire family was killed and forced to marry Hulagu, who happened to the cause of that tragedy and her trauma, she gradually, she blossomed into a shrewd and astute young woman, adept at sowing chaos through a facade of innocence and naivety, showcasing a profound depth of character growth. I also loved the romance between Kokochin and Layla which added another unexpected but a welcome layer to the story.

The Twelve and The House of Grace is another brilliant aspect of The Judas Blossom. I mean who doesn’t love secret societies and blood thirsty female assassins? These formidable Persian women exhibited a covert prowess, their remarkable strength often concealed beneath a veneer of normalcy. Despite their unassuming appearances, they skillfully navigated the intricate political landscape by immersing themselves within the inner workings of the Mongol empire’s courts.

My only complaint about The Judas Blossom is that at times it felt as though some scenes weren’t fully fleshed out and at times rushed. Also I wasn’t a huge fan of the somewhat abrupt ending.

Overall, The Judas Blossom is great starting point to a very promising series. With its meticulous world-building and a distinctive ensemble of characters, the novel intricately interlaces a narrative that undeniably captivating. The potential it holds for an enthralling journey ahead is undeniable.


Book Cover

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