Black Blossom: A Fantasy of Manners Among Aliens Paperback – 26 Sep 2012
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About the Author
Daughter of two Cuban political exiles, M.C.A. Hogarth was born a foreigner in the American melting pot and has had a fascination for the gaps in cultures and the bridges that span them ever since. She has been many things—web database architect, product manager, technical writer and massage therapist—but is currently a full-time parent, artist, writer and anthropologist to aliens, both human and otherwise. She is the author of over fifty titles in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, romance, humor and business. Her fiction has variously been recommended for a Nebula, a finalist for the Spectrum, placed on the secondary Tiptree reading list and chosen for two best-of anthologies.
Top Customer Reviews
(Also, this book is perfectly readable as a stand-alone.)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If you are looking for sweeping conflict and terrifying culture clashes, you won't find it here. Black Blossom is a much more cerebral, even spiritual examination of how hearts and minds cannot be left unchanged after we have encountered experiences that shake us to the core. The story is by turns quietly brutal and unselfconsciously exquisite, sometimes in the same scene. There is much detail in the book about the society of Kherishdar, and lovers of art and food will delight in the attention paid to the craft of calligraphy and the preparation of meals.
Recommended for fans of the other two books about Kherishdar, fantasies of manners, and stories that explore the relationships between hearts.
It is a beautiful story, sometimes heartbreakingly beautiful, sometimes very sad, and always revelatory.
Hogarth is a master of voice and tone, and wields emotion sometimes like a feather and sometimes like a knife. Her worldbuilding is masterful, her alien race believable, beautiful, and often disturbing.
Some acquaintance with the Ai-Nadar is recommended through the prior books, The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and the Admonishments of Kherishdar, but it is not required. The story will stand on its own. It is deeper, however, if you have come to know the narrators of those two books, who are main characters here. Thankfully the other books are both available and very, very good.
I am glad I read it, and on some level I needed to read it, and I really cannot recommend it more highly than that.
Black Blossom covers the tale of the Calligrapher and the Priest of Shame as they must work together to save the House of Qenain before its sickness spreads to the rest of the Ai-Naidar. During the course of the story we are reminded that relationships are like chemistry: if there is any reaction, all components are transformed. The nature of the transformation, both in process and result, can create its own problems however.
Driven by strong major and secondary characters, Black Blossom serves as an excellent reminder of what happens when different cultures meet - both good and bad.
Enter Black Blossom. I first discovered this book directly after finishing Emma for the first time and enshrining it instantly on my top ten list of favorite books. I had just learned the phrase, novel of manners. And then here is this book, this web serial, called a fantasy of manners. Nothing could have stopped me from embarking on this book at that point. Fantasy and science fiction have been my bedfellows ever since I graduated from fairy tales. Black Blossom promised to combine all of my eclectic sweet spots, and it did not disappoint.
Black Blossom opens gently with characters I knew and loved from the previous book, The Aphorisms of Kherishdar. It walks us into the empire and Civilization (yes, I meant that capital letter) and sits us down to tea. It is as if the book itself greets us as tea and slowly steeps until I can see the richness of color and taste the depth of flavor. Farren, the Calligrapher, is commissioned by Civilization to succour the priest of Shame, a broken pot in an extended metaphor that lasts the entire book. This is a quiet commission, granted privately, and to be accomplished in tandem with an external assignment, as both Shame and Farren are to travel to the House of Qenain, also known as the House of Flowers, and discover and correct the taint that is there.
Immediately, we begin our education in the proper manners of this gracious, but thoroughly alien society. The ways of Servants, Correction, and relationships are opened before us. Through the graceful architecture, the intimate paintings of the Calligrapher, and the lush poetry, parables, and songs threaded through the text, we come to know and almost understand the mind of this empire, Kherishdar, and how it shapes and is shaped by its citizens. We see that this apparently immovable society, so carefully planned and maintained by Civilization through its books and education and social etiquette can and does undergo change. It is a civilization on the brink of such a change, a growth in its own understanding of love.
I have found few works so captive of grand scope and intimate detail within the same set of pages. A simple sketch in broad strokes is slowly layered into a shaded portrait and then, the depths are plumbed and we find ourselves passing through the same crucible as the characters, as they undergo complete transformation in their understanding and their brokenness. The continual theme of shards and broken pots renewed, discarded, made whole weaves through the text. This is not a story of lost lives, though it is, or lost loves, though it is, or might-have-beens, though it is--it is a story of two of the most important Servants to an entire Empire realizing the totality of how wrong they have been and walking that most painful path to healing.
It is indeed a beautiful story.
The answers to these questions were a surprise to me, and I was left gasping, crying, and even literally dancing in glee at times. Following the web serial left me hanging on the edge of my seat while waiting for the next installment. Owning a copy of the book, having the whole held in my hand, promises to be just as satisfying. Each new reading reveals layers not noticed before, truly a thought provoking and delicious tale.