Jade City

English language

Published Aug. 18, 2017


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4 stars (3 reviews)

Jade City is a 2017 fantasy novel by Fonda Lee. It won the World Fantasy Award in 2018 and is the first in the Green Bone Saga trilogy. It was followed by Jade War in 2019. Jade Legacy, the third and final book in the series, was released in 2021.

Not for me (spoilers)

3 stars

This book is competently written, but is not for me. I had no connection to any of the main characters and while the author made attempts to explain their motivations to make them more endearing, most of it rang untrue for me. A few of the lesser characters had far more interesting and complicated storylines, notably Doru, Wen, and Anden.

The biggest letdown for me was after 600 pages of hearing about honor, even between clans as part of some unwritten code of rules, the climax comes from winning a battle by feigning a surrender and then using that as the element of surprise to triumph. From everything I'd been told about Hilo up until then, it feels that while he would do that, it doesn't seem like he'd take satisfaction from winning in that way, yet he does.

I'm interested to know how some of the minor characters progress, …

The mobster-wuxia hybrid I never knew I needed (spoilers)

5 stars

I'm not usually all that excited about either really martial fantasy or mob stories, because both tend to rely on either very flatly good/evil dichotomies, or just telling the reader that one set of characters are the good ones and should be sympathised with.

At first, this book felt like it was going down that road, since our introduction to some of the core characters is them dispensing a lot of violence for profit, against some thieves who I found myself sympathising with. But by about 1/4 of the way I was getting reeled in by the Kauls' charm even as I was never convinced by their goodness. I think that ambiguity is one of the great strengths of Lee's writing. She could so easily have brought the world another set of Atreides/Skywalkers/Gandalf-and-the-hobbits, and instead we got some much more interesting, real and complex characters fighting a much smaller war. …

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rated it

3 stars