Jade War by Fonda Lee: Review

Well… it took me over a year and the impending release of the final book in the trilogy to decide to read this which is mental because I thoroughly enjoyed Jade City AND raved about it to everyone who would listen but I did it. I read Jade War and here is my review.

Some information about this book:

  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release date: July 23rd 2019
  • Page count: 590
  • Series: Green Bone Saga (#2)

The Blurb:

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.

Book Cover

So this story begins 16 months after the events of Jade City. If you’ve read Jade City and wondered if it could get much better then rest assured it really does. Fonda has managed to take everything that made Jade City a standout fantasy book and improve on it greatly. I’ve listed this story as Fantasy above but it’s a hybrid in my opinion, an Urban/Epic Fantasy story. You’ve got the cities, the gangs, the vehicles and the ‘magic’ (I use this term loosely in reference to the Jade in the stories) but you’ve got tense relationships, families, honour, betrayal and politics normally found in a big epic fantasy such as A Song of Ice & Fire.

“My grandfather taught me that if a friend asks for your forgiveness, you should always give it. […] He also taught me that if you have to give it again, then they weren’t a friend to begin with.”

I think the thing that stands out most to me, again, is that Fonda has the amazing ability to create real, flesh and blood characters. I said this in my Jade City review (here) and it continues, no, improves in this book. This is a character driven story although it could be said that it is story driven except that the characters own stories, wants and needs, really push the narrative here and each character feels completely real and compelling. From Anden who wants to find his use in the clan, Shae trying to find her own place in this primarily male driven world, even Ayt Mada, leader of the Mountain clan who is trying to maintain her power – they all feel real enough to touch and this will stand out as you read it.

“We women claw for every inch we gain in this world…”

I thought about this fact as I was reading my paperback or utilising Audible’s 2.2x reading speed, and came to the conclusion that it is because Fonda makes use of real life problems. Sex, abortion, relationships, promotions, inter-work feelings, responsibilities put upon us, letting others down, honesty, adoption, loyalty and so many more themes appear in the pages of this beautifully crafted book. This is what makes them so real. No matter what has happened to you in your life, I expect you will find something to relate to and by extension, a character or two.

“We’re getting into a dangerous game, Hilo.”
“You have to go where your enemies are,” Hilo said. “And then further.”

This isn’t to say that the characters are the only selling point, far from it. They are like the cherry on top of the paper cake as Fonda expands on the world-building in Jade City excellently by taking us out to new places and bringing more lore and history from the past (I would love to see a trilogy set with the Spear & Torch of Kekon!) to really flesh out the authenticity of this world she has made real. For example, a scene inside a nightclub or a group of people gathering Jade illegally before having to escape – these small scenes added authenticity to the world and almost like a map in an RPG game being revealed, the world came to me in little pieces being added onto what Jade City already delivered. This allowed me to build up the world in my head without feeling overwhelmed which I have had happen to me with some Fantasy & Sci-fi books as they infodump a world on you that the author is extremely familiar with but I, as the reader, do not.

“The clan can claim everything I have —my time, my blood and sweat, my life and jade—but it can’t have my wife. She’s a stone-eye. She’s the one thing in the world that jade can’t touch.”

The action in this story is written really well. Whether referring to shootouts, fighting or Jade related circumstances, it was always fast enough to be exciting but not so fast that you couldn’t picture what was happening and would get confused or skip over it. The scenes involving opposite parties were always quite tense as they played mental chess against one another. It was at times like watching a chess match between two grandmasters. You just don’t know what is going to happen which brings me onto the shock factor.

“The possibility of death was like the weather – you could make attempts to predict it, but you would likely be wrong, and no one would change their most important plans due to the threat of rain.”

Fonda brings it in a few places. No-one is safe and that should scare you like a roller-coaster ride does. It’s exciting, dangerous and yet you can’t take you hands off the book to make it stop. This book has the ability to go from chilled fantasy in a noodle shop to one of the main characters getting assassinated (this is purely a fictional example and doesn’t happen). It’s one of the things I love about this series. When you think you know what’s going on it gets turned upside down and this is such fun to have as a reader because it keeps the story exciting, keeps you guessing and maybe most importantly, keeps you reading!

“You can make a rational, well-informed choice, and still be unprepared for what it means.”

Rating 5/5 – It should come as no surprise that I loved this book. Fonda has written a sequel here that not many writers can write. A better book. She has infinitely built on the strong foundations laid out in Jade City and given us the floors leading up to the penthouse. The characters are flawed flawlessly, the story perfect and the stakes high. Tensions overflow, power changes hands but War never changes. I can’t wait to see how this all ends in Jade Legacy and I am again blown away by how much enjoyment a wad of paper and ink can provide. Well done Fonda, you should be really proud of yourself.

Also, Bero is the best character.

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