Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.
Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.
When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — and of Kekon itself.
Jade City by Fonda Lee shot up my TBR pile with the effusive praise poured upon Jade Legacy, the conclusion of the series. I was blessed to be sent a review copy of Jade City by Orbit, so I decided to start the trilogy.
This series is an urban fantasy tale with heavy influences from gangster and mafia stories mixed with kung-fu. I’m not a huge fan of those kind of stories, but I love well written characters and an interesting take on fantasy, so I gave it a shot.
And it’s pretty dang good! The story follows the Kauls, siblings of a major clan in the city of Janloon – the main setting of the novel. There’s Lan, the leader of the clan (or Pillar), his younger brother and leader of the military, Hilo, and their youngest sibling and only sister, Shae. There are several other POVs including a cousin of the siblings which helps to flesh out the world. The ‘green-bones,’ both the Kauls and the rival clan the Ayts, protect and control jade – stones that give the users an increase in strength among other things.
What begins with the two rival clans and their simmering hostility, slowly builds into open war. It’s a pleasure to read the slow decent and the choices that the Kauls have to make to protect the family. It’s compelling stuff for sure.
Each of the main characters is immediately interesting and nuanced. Lee has done a fantastic job of giving them motivations and desires, and nothing they did ever felt out of character for who we know them to be. They were what drove this story for me and pulled me back into the narrative throughout the book. The struggles about power and duty, honor and family, were all compelling themes built throughout the story.
The worldbuilding is fairly light compared to some epic fantasy, but the battle over the jade and the political alliances drawn create a fully lived in and realized world. There are also some pretty great twists and turns throughout which kept me engaged. Although it does do the one trope I dislike (keeping a twist a secret from the reader when all the characters know what’s going on).
The only reason I didn’t LOVE the book, is I think this type of story just doesn’t interest me quite as much as other sub genres of fantasy. But I really don’t have a ton of faults and I’ve already ordered the next one. Be sure to read this if you love gangster stories and Asian inspired fantasy – you’ll probably love this even more than I did.
*thanks to Orbit for a copy of this book in exchange for review