Jade City (2017) 4 stars

Jade City is a 2017 fantasy novel by Fonda Lee. It won the World Fantasy …

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, …

@whami It's always interesting reading reviews from someone who had a very different response to the book, because it's not like one of us is right and one is wrong. I'm definitely hoping that the next book gives more space to Anden and Wen, but I feel like it is set up to. I clearly engaged more with the main characters than you did, and I can't really explain why. I do think Hilo is the least interesting one, and I'm glad it became more Shae's story over time.

I took the ending as a testament to Hilo's utter desperation - that it was this or actual surrender, and he'd only choose something this deceitful (and risky to Anden who he clearly feels protective over) because he felt that those were the only two options left. I am also curious whether the dirtiness of the trick comes back to haunt …

@eldang As you say, it is fun to see the varied responses. And I knew I would mostly be the dissenting opinion since this book has a massive following. I was attending Worldcon while I was reading Jade City. Fonda Lee was also attending and I was near the autograph area while she was signing. Her fans are very passionate. Unless something is just truly bad writing, I will never be the person who says, "This books sucks!" It is often simply a matter of taste, and I knew going in to an urban fantasy that there was a very good chance I wasn't going to enjoy it, but with all the love I'd seen expressed for this book, I wanted to like it.

I agree about Hilo and was glad to see Shae's story become as prominent. I can see your view that the ending could have been his desperation, but if so, I would expect him to exhibit less swagger in the post-climax. I'll be eager to read your review of the next book. I'm not eager to go on to the next volume, but if the three characters I'm most interested in are highlighted more, I could be persuaded.