Book Review: Jade War by Fonda Lee

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I’ve returned to the world of Fonda Lee’s The Green Bone Saga and let me tell you it was such a good experience! Jade War is just as engrossing as it’s predecessor Jade City, but now on a more global scale. I previously described Jade City as being a “vivid, gritty, gangster fantasy.” Well, Jade War doubles down on that description and throws in some serious character and plot development ensuring it doesn’t fall into that dreaded sophomore slump, but instead stands up and carries the torch for this series as it continues on to the next installment in Jade Legacy.

Cover of Jade War by Fonda Lee

In Jade War, the sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.

Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.

Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.

Jade War is the second book of the Green Bone Saga, an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.

Goodreads Blurb

Highlights

  • Asian gangster fantasy
  • Worldbuilding
  • Character Development
  • Family
  • Outsiders gaining influence
  • Change is coming
  • Telling not showing

My Thoughts

Wow. Jade War takes that Asian inspired gangster fantasy that Fonda Lee introduced us to in Jade City and just keeps the hits coming. I was seriously impressed with the way in which this book felt fresh while still keeping true to the original storyline from Jade City. All the stuff I loved from book one was here but with more depth and breadth. I really felt the pull of this world and the family it centers upon almost like I was coming up within it myself.

Speaking of that additional depth and breadth, Lee expands upon the worldbuilding so that the story now becomes international. No longer entirely based in Kekon, the setting moves to multiple other nations, at times for extended forays. The worldbuilding adds to the intricacy of the plot development and gives it an added richness and complexity; something the characters must all deal with as they evolve with the story.

That brings me to the next feature of the added depth and breadth of the story…character development. Every one of the major characters and some of the minor ones have serious character development in this installment. Lee seems to have put some real thought and work into the characters and it shows in the way they have grown since the events of Jade City, and in the way those events have molded them and how they guide their thoughts and actions now. Often a story will feature a little, or maybe significant character development for one protagonist but I don’t often see it spread so broadly as in this case.

Family takes center stage as a theme in Jade War. It’s a major factor of Jade City too, but as with everything else there’s just that added depth. The family dynamics are more complicated, and the interactions between family members weigh more heavily than before it seems. Linked to this is the changing dynamic of outsiders gaining influence within the family. It’s seen in women taking on roles traditionally held by males, of non-green bones taking on additional responsibilities where they were excluded before. This latter element raises the stakes and increases the tension within the plot leading to added excitement and danger which just makes the reading that much more enjoyable.

As you read there’s this constant sense that change is coming. Is it for good or ill you don’t know. And again, this just builds upon that tension and excitement making it hard to put the book down with each sitting. Change is coming for No Peak; will their be a leadership shake-up, will anyone be exiled, will they survive against the Mountain; who will die and who will survive? I could keep adding to the list but you get the picture. The overriding sense is change is coming. And it isn’t just for No Peak, but for Kekon as a whole as world events press upon the island nation. Even by the end of the book you’re left realizing that even with some plot threads having resolved themselves there’s still a lot of change to coming in book three.

The only thing close to a negative I noted, was the amount of telling, not showing that made it’s way into the final draft. There was just a ton of things described in a “telling” mode, explained kind of outside the narrative. Maybe it was there in book one too, but I don’t remember it. Now, I should add that Lee’s ability as a writer made it so I didn’t hate it. Usually I do, but not here. I noticed it, I realized it every time it happened (which was a lot) but interestingly it didn’t pull me out of the read, and like I said I didn’t hate it which is how I usually feel about it. Lee managed to pull it off.

Let me conclude by saying again that this was a book I really, really enjoyed. It built upon the previous book and added that depth and breadth I’ve already mentioned. It’s no wonder this series has become a new favorite for many readers. If you asked me for a list of modern fantasy series to recommend to readers The Green Bone Saga would be on it for multiple categories. I think you should check it out.

I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Authors: Fonda Lee
Series: The Green Bone Saga #2
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 590

One thought on “Book Review: Jade War by Fonda Lee

  1. Pingback: Off The TBR’s Best of 2021 | Off The TBR

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