Jade City – Fonda Lee

About the Book


Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.

498 pages (hardcover)
Published on November 7, 2017
Published by Orbit
Author’s Webpage
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This book was an ARC sent by the publisher. It was also a library loan (explained below).

Jade City is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. In fact, I got an ARC of this from the publisher, but my children got their hands on it and before I realized what happened, it was ruined. Life moved on, and I forgot until I was at the library last week and saw it on the shelf. I picked it up, and started to read.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Jade City is set in a secondary world. However, rather than being historical feeling, like most fantasy, this one is roughly modern day. There are some differences. For example, as far as I could tell there are no cell phones, and there’s a part where someone goes and buys a typewriter to update her resume, so I don’t think there are computers either. That being said, it’s modern enough to say it’s modern. It’s also got a Far East vibe that I just loved.

The island nation of Kekon has its own flavor, but it’s the sort of place that is so vivid I could picture Anthony Bourdain walking on those streets, eating at those noodle shops, snarking away his profound observations as he sits on rickety plastic chairs and watches local life pass him by.

Kekon thrives on jade, and the power it gives people. Those who live in Kekon, and have “strong blood” can wear the jade and get special abilities of it, increased strength, better perception, increased speed, etc. The jade trade is largely controlled by families, think mafia here and you won’t be that far off. Of course, these families, two large and a few smaller, are always carving up the island into territories, having turf wars, fighting to keep control of the jade and anything else you can imagine these people would do.

Insert a new drug here that allows people who aren’t local to the island of Kekon to wear jade and gain abilities from it, a family who sees an opportunity here, and a whole bunch of infighting, power grabbing, and backstabbing, and you’ve got quite an interesting stew of simmering events that are preparing to blow in some rather surprising ways.

So, as you can tell, I loved this book. I loved just about everything about it, from the otherworldly and vivid fight scenes to all the scheming, to the merciless and realistic ways these family’s function and the absolutely incredible world building.

Something I haven’t touched on yet, however, is the incredible way the characters were crafted. These people appear to be one way on the surface, but slowly Lee peels away the layers and you soon realize that the front they are showing is just a front, but who that person really is, is another animal altogether. This added an interesting dynamic, because these incredible, intense things happen, and as the reader you kind of get a front seat into how these events affect every part of the character, from the face they show the world, to the person they are when the doors are closed. For example, you see how strong and stoic Lan is, but you are also treated to what a stressed out, conflicted mess he is as well.

It takes these incredible events and makes me feel like they are happening to me. This isn’t just some weird person who is going through this stuff, suddenly I feel like I’m that person, and I wonder how all the layers of me would react. That’s some incredible character development, rivaling the phenomenal world building.

The action, as you can imagine, starts out with a theft, an impressive takedown, and just goes on from there, gaining steam as it does. There are some quiet moments, there’s drama between families, but there’s also drama inside the family. However, it all builds up toward an incredible, surprising, jaw-dropping finish that left me begging for more.

Jade City is one of those books where not a word is wasted. The world building is intricate and incredible. The character development is some of the best I’ve run across recently. It’s a book where every scene has a purpose, and even the twists and turns surprised me the way they should have. There isn’t a single part of this story that was less than incredible. Fonda Lee set the bar high, and then vaulted over it. Jade City is basically an example of everything I want to see in the books I read.


5/5 stars


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