jade city – fonda lee | review

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Series: The Green Bone Saga #1
Published November 7th 2017 by Orbit
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Representation: generally Asian


Rating: 5 out of 5.


The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities. 

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself. 

✼  ҉  ✼  ҉  ✼ 

trigger and content warnings:
  • gore, death violence, drug abuse/use, suicide, self-harm, sex scenes, mentions of sexual assault

The clan is my blood, and the Pillar is its master. On my honor, my life, and my jade.

holy shit. jade city blew me away. fonda lee has a brilliant mind and an enthralling writing style. she drew me into this urban fantasy swiftly and easily with her words. jade city brought back so many childhood memories when i binge watched chinese wuxia dramas. the world wasn’t what i had expected. i didn’t anticipate how technologically advanced the place would be with the latest electronics and cars, and the state-of-the-arts facilities.

the entire book is filled with political intrigue, clan conflicts, unexpected and heartbreaking deaths, fascinating characters and beautiful prose. i often find politics in books dry and uninteresting but fonda lee managed to hook me into this world, which is heavily influenced by clan politics, with ease. it wasn’t just the action scenes that kept my mind whirling but also the verbal back and forth between the characters that captivated me.

“I see in you the kind of Green Bone I don’t want to become. Jade meant something once. I’m not an oath breaker. I won’t betray the memory of a slain brother, and sell the life of another for power.”

in the city of janloon, jade enhances the natural ability of green bones while people who can’t handle jade naturally rely on certain drug to build up the tolerance. as a chinese, i grew up knowing that jade is a precious and expensive gemstone and are often heirlooms passed down from generations to generations in families. as a result, it was surprisingly nostalgic to see jade play an important role in a book that has such a close link to the chinese culture.

aside from the politics, this urban fantasy focuses on family-like clan; the honour, power and duty of being in one. to some this can be a form of strength but to others, it’s their demise. the clan conflicts are usually about gaining more territory so that their businesses will boom. other times, it’s about personal interests.

normally i get impatient and bored when the pacing is slow but as fonda lee laid out the backbone and history of the kekonese jade wielders, and made me care wayyyyyy too much about the characters, i didn’t find myself complaining about it.

for the no peak clan,
the siblings:
✘ lan — the pillar (leader the clan). considerate, compassionate, a listener, rational and understanding. however, burdened by fear because of self-doubt & always trying to find a middle ground and a balance to please everyone.
✘ hilo — the horn (second in authority; leader of the fist and the fingers); younger brother of lan. tactical mind for war, a little bloodthirsty, fiery attitude, quick-tempered. but, kind, thoughtful, sensitive and humorous.
✘ shae — lan and hilo’s sister. want nothing to do with the clan, hesitant about what she wants, finding her place in the world.
✘ anden — adoptive brother. insecure that he’ll never live up to the kaul family, doesn’t want to step out of line, living in the shadow of his biological mother who died of a jade overdose.

the others:
✘ kehn & tar — brothers. work under hilo as part of the fists. ruthless but nice, would do anything for the no peak clan.
✘ wen — sister of kehn and tar, hilo’s lover. an absolute badass even though she’s a stone-eye. she uses her powers in other ways despite her lack of affinity with jade. i loved how she takes control of the situation in an essentially very patriarchal society.

it’s obvious that the siblings unequivocally love and care about each other but there’s so much tension, anger and resentment amongst all of them that stemmed from their past which made their sibling dynamic a very riveting and compelling element of jade city. i fear for everyone’s death because apparently, there’s no such thing as safety where characters are DROPPING LIKE FLIES.

“Sometimes, Andy, the people you think you can count on, they let you down in a bad way, and that’s hard to take. But for the most part, you give a man something to live up to, you tell him he can be more than he is now, more than other people think he’ll ever be, and he’ll try his godsdamned best to make it true.”

so, i came out of jade city a little confused and hurt by the ending but majorly protective of all my beloved no peak clan members. how can i not? but they’re better at protecting and fighting for themselves than anyone else. i have no idea what rollercoaster of emotions i’ll go through in jade war after this one. it’s such a complex universe that i can’t even start to fathom what’s going to handle next. all i know is that i’m excited and worried for my faves. you never know who might die, and it’s GIVING ME GREY HAIRS. 

i’m all ready for the awesome martial arts scenes because who knew reading people fight would make me gasp out loud in surprise, tense up in fear and keep me entertained as much as watching it in a tv show.

p. s. there are some young punks that i don’t mind seeing end up in a ditch somewhere because HOW DARE THEY.

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