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Jade City

by Fonda Lee

Series: Green Bone Saga (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7733021,919 (3.91)27
"Stylish and action-packed, full of ambitious families and guilt-ridden loves, Jade City is an epic drama reminiscent of the best classic Hong Kong gangster films but set in a fantasy metropolis so gritty and well-imagined that you'll forget you're reading a book." -- Ken Liu, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and author of The Grace of Kings and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING. Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for -- and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical 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"--… (more)
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» See also 27 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
An enjoyable fantasy page-turner, set in a well realized world. Another reviewer noted that it the story doesn't transcend the usual gangster tropes, and that seems right. I would place Jade City firmly in the category of 'enjoyable beach read' -- so it was surprising to learn that it it won the World Fantasy Award and was a Nebula finalist.
  ben_a | Sep 6, 2021 |
It’s probably a 4.5 but I’m definitely rounding up.

I have known about this book for a while now but I never really thought of reading it; it didn’t feel like my kind of story and it also happens to be adult fantasy, which is not my usual genre. But 2019 has been an year of me trying to read a bit differently, especially picking up and promoting more books by Asian authors. So, it was inevitable that this book would be on my radar again. What I didn’t expect was the insane amount of buzz around it this summer due to release of it’s sequel, when my Stars and Sorcery Book Club chose it as our BOTM for July, I decided to finally read it. And what an experience this has been.

The author does a phenomenal job of creating this world. I have obviously never been to Hong Kong or Japan, only know a bit about them from the movies or shows I watch, but I could still feel that the author took a bit of inspiration from these countries to create the island nation of Kekon where this story takes place. Except a little initially, there is not a lot of info dumping, but we get to know a lot about the history of the occupation of Kekon, how the Jade warriors and ordinary people rose up in revolution to take back their country and how the country has prospered in the decades after that. I thought the whole concept of Jade being a bioenergetic natural product, which gives its wearer supernatural abilities was fascinating, but also liked that the author included to mention how not everyone could wear it and the consequences of wrongful usage. We also get a very intimate look into the two clans who rule the city of Janloon through fear, loyalty, intimidation and ultimately the power of Jade - both as a tool for trade and a weapon of war. As with any gangster saga, we get to know the hierarchy in the clans, and while it took me sometime to understand it all, it was pretty easy to follow later on in the book. Though the story is limited to the island of Kekon, we do get information about other countries, especially the enemies and trading partners and it looks like the sequel will give us a much more detailed look into the inner workings of these new places as well.

I will not call this a slow paced book per se, because something is always happening, the build up of brewing tensions is steady and when it all comes to a peak, it’s bloody and explosive and mind blowing. I thought the author captured the inner workings of a clan perfectly, with the sometimes difficult but necessary decisions that have to be made, the treachery and betrayals that dog at every corner, and never knowing what might happen in the next moment. It was this tension filled atmosphere of the book that made me quite anxious and unable to binge read it in a single sitting. There are also some amazing action sequences, which are described with such precision that I could totally picture them and they reminded me so much of my favorite Kung Fu movies of my childhood. Despite all this, the story is not always grimdark. The author also manages to give us little moments of love and hope and humor, bringing some much needed light to otherwise dark times. The author never shies away from taking the story into unexpected directions which completely shocked me, and I really had to take breaks in between reading to comprehend it all. This is masterful storytelling at its best and I can’t believe it’s the author’s adult fantasy debut. It definitely feels like the work of a veteran who is an expert at intricate world building and empathetic characterizations.

Despite all the gushing I have done about the world and the writing, the strength of this book are it’s awesome characters. We get a very personal look into the No Peak Clan through the eyes of different members of the Kaul family and I’m in love with every single of them. Lan is the Pillar of the clan, the one everyone looks up to and who needs to show that he is capable of both keeping the peace and waging when required. But he is a man with flaws, kind and compassionate and pragmatic who wants peace, and doesn’t really have the wherewithal for a prolonged clan war. Being the Pillar is a burden for which he has been prepared all his life, but it still weighs on him, making him take decisions that have unintended consequences. He really is a study in contrasts and I couldn’t help but sympathize with his situation.

His brother Hilo on the other hand is hot tempered, aggressive and as the Horn of the clan, would really love to solve all issues with blood and violence. However, behind all this bluster is a man who loves his family and clan with all his heart and would do absolutely anything to protect them all. His words might seem venomous but they only hide a deep hurt and he doesn’t know any other way to express them all. But his explosive nature definitely made me worry for him at every moment and I’m still scared what will happen in the next book.

Shae is the youngest Kaul who walked away from the family because she wanted a life that wasn’t defined by her family’s legacy and expectations, but she is ensnared into the clan business eventually when terrible events make it absolutely necessary. She may belong to the Kaul family and be an accomplished Jade warrior, but as a woman she has to constantly prove her worth and I thought the way she goes about achieving this is depicted very well.

There are many other interesting characters whom I could go on talking about because everyone of them is significant to the plot and is written with extreme care. I particularly liked Anden, who is like an adopted brother to the Kauls. His struggle with trying to reconcile his birth family’s painful past with what he wants to do in the future is written very well - I could completely empathize with his pain and dilemma and just wanted to protect him from everything in the world. Wen is another very fascinating woman, who is so much more than just Hilo’s love interest even though she doesn’t show her strengths. She is a stone-eye which makes people consider her bad luck and she is pretty much invisible wherever she goes, which puts her in a unique position to work for the clan in ways others can’t. Hilo may want to protect her from from the world, but she doesn’t shy away from putting her talent and strategic mind to best use.

I probably have a lot more to say but I can’t find proper words to gush about this masterpiece fantasy novel. So all I want to say is, if you have ever loved gangster movies or Kung Fu action entertainers and would love to read a fantasy book with similar themes, then don’t look any further. Jade City is full of crisp action sequences, excellent world building and characters who maybe morally gray but you can’t help but root for them. Finally, I have already pledged my loyalty to the Kauls and the No Peak clan and can’t wait for the release of Jade War.... What are you waiting for ??? ( )
  ksahitya1987 | Aug 20, 2021 |
A man who wears the crown of a king can’t wear the jade of a warrior. Gold and jade, never together.

Take a mix of Chinese/Japanese culture, an almost modern setting (it sometimes feels like the 20s and sometimes like the straight modern day), magic based on how much Jade you're wearing (but only if you're from a bloodline that can use it--or have taken drugs that let you pretend you are), and throw in a country controlled by a pair of rival equivalents to the Mafia/Yakuza and you have [b:Jade City|43587154|Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)|Fonda Lee|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1547625704l/43587154._SY75_.jpg|55755047].

It's a crazy deep amount of worldbuilding, with countries and cultures and battles that feel just the other side of familiar. It's fascinating, because it really does feel like you're living in the world. There are all of these other places out there, but unless you're in the head of one of the characters that lived abroad, you only know/care about the smaller world of Kekon and the war between the Jade clans.

In that world, you have all manner of point of view characters (mostly/all from one of the two clans), just trying to do the best they can for their Clan and Country (in that order), until of course everything falls apart.

It's an awfully dense book, especially at first, since there are just so many names and concepts to figure out. But you quickly come to fall in love with the Kaul family, rooting for them to figure it all out.

“Expectations are a funny thing,” Wen said. “When you’re born with them, you resent them, fight against them. When you’ve never been given any, you feel the lack of them your whole life.”

Well worth the read. I just wish the full trilogy was out already! Onward to book 2 though for now. ( )
  jpv0 | Jul 21, 2021 |
I was much more impressed with Jade City than Exo, the other Fonda Lee book I read. Better story, better characters, excellent world-building. The book was very much an Asian version of Mario Puzo's The Godfather, with some added magical elements: family, power, politics, loyalty and rivalry. Much of the wealth and commerce of Kekon is based on jade and the power it can provide to its warriors (Green Bones.) There are two dominant clans: No Peak and the Mountain. The head of the clan is the Pillar, and in lieu of a consiglieri, there are two roles: the Horn (enforcer) and the Weather Man (business strategist), which makes a great deal of sense. This is primarily the story of the Kaul family (No Peak clan) and their war with the Ayts (Mountain clan.) Quite violent, but I was somewhat disappointed with the ending so 4.5 stars, not 5. I hope Fonda Lee broadens her saga, with the story of the Ayts in the next volume. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
That was an interesting read with complex characters and interesting politics. It was also refreshingly non-european.
While there were good points about the story there was also the issue that this is not my kind of story, I don't really like mobster stories. This to me read as a mobster story with a tinge of magic. In this world jade enhances the ability of people and in Janloon it fuels the families who rule. Those who wield political power don't wear jade and those who wield jade don't always survive well. Only some people can wield jade effectively. Now there's a drug that will help foreigners and those who couldn't normally wield jade and tensions are going to erupt into war.
It is pretty gruesome story with a lot of torture and death and in some instances the death of dreams, of aspirations, of potential. It's not a series where I'd seek out the sequels but might read them if I came across them. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Mar 11, 2021 |
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For my brother.
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The two would-be jade thieves sweated in the kitchen of the Twice Lucky restaurant.
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"Stylish and action-packed, full of ambitious families and guilt-ridden loves, Jade City is an epic drama reminiscent of the best classic Hong Kong gangster films but set in a fantasy metropolis so gritty and well-imagined that you'll forget you're reading a book." -- Ken Liu, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and author of The Grace of Kings and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING. Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for -- and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical 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"--

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