Jade City by Fonda Lee // Book Review

This was the Fantasy Book Club pick of July and wow, what a book it was. This intricate and complex story grasped me from the first page. It’s filled with action and intrigue while this crime family in a big city try to fight for their ability to stay in control. As the world crumbles around them, so does their family. It’s a lot to go into, but I’ll try my best.

Here’s more about Jade City

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.

My Thoughts

The story follows the Kaul family: Lan is the pillar, the leader of the family. Hilo is the “Horn”, which basically felt like the “muscle” or military leader of the family. Shae is the youngest sister who decided to take off her jade. And Anden is an adopted son who’s currently at the academy learning how to use jade. The family was so complex and each character except for Hilo felt so realized and filled with conflict. I loved Shae the most. She was so capable and yet pushed away her family for personal reasons. She could definitely be the pillar, but that gets explained a bit more as the story goes on. I also loved Anden. His complicated upbringing that led to him being a part of the Kaul family was heartbreaking (and watch out, there’s some self-harm and suicide here) and then his internal conflict of wearing jade made so much sense especially when he finally gets the chance to use his powers.

I also loved Lan, but his role in the book seemed so secondary in comparison to the others. Hilo did have a bigger section of the book, but his story wasn’t my favorite and honestly, I didn’t like him very much.

The action in this book was incredible. The scenes were so well described that it was like watching a movie in my head. I will say, it’s pretty gorey with a lot of violence, so heads up if you’re not a fan of those kinds of things. If you’re a fan of action movies, gritty fight scenes, and even those East Asian movies with martial arts, then you’ll be a fan of the action here. It wasn’t just the action, but the descriptions of the scene being destroyed or the owners of the restaurant hiding in the back were really worth the read.

Jade is a super important resource in this book. It’s used for everything from monastery prayers to healing, but the way jade is used for the Kaul family is economically and physically. The powers imbued by jade are only wielded by a certain group of people. Anyone else that uses it can become extremely addicted leading to hysteria and death, so there’s a level of elitism when it comes to wearing and using jade. I really loved how jade played a role in the story. It was a resource, but it also had a complicated past that really plays out in the book. I felt like jade was a character on its own with how important it was to the family and to the business.

The lore behind this world was amazing. It was so realized and I loved the way it plays into both the history of the Kaul family and the current state that their in. There was some antiquated rules these families continued to abide by and it was interesting to see both the older generation and the newer generation go head-to-head around it. Although, it felt like tradition and history were extremely important, the story does lead you to believe that the younger generations are trying their best to change that.

I do wish there were parts that were better explained. It was a little confusing to figure out what all the different roles within the family were and how the traditions were ingrained into the world. I think I finally figured it out on my own, but some time to discuss the family line or the history would have been beneficial to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the gender roles and family bloodlines, but it made sense for the story. I just hope that book two goes into this a bit more and maybe defies it because it feels too antiquated to be in a modern fantasy book.

I really loved that this book was a slow burn. I know many folks won’t like the pacing of the story, but for me, it felt complex and needed the space to dive into all the parts. There’s enough in the book to keep you interested, but there were some parts I wished moved a little faster. That’s my own personal preference, so it didn’t take away from the book.

Overall, this was action packed and full of intrigue and suspense. I enjoyed it immensely and cannot wait to read the second book.

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