Book Review

Jade City

Jade City

  • Author: Fonda Lee
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: June 26, 2018
  • Publisher: Orbit 
  • Series: The Green Bone Saga #1

CONTENT WARNING: violence, substance use, mention of pedophilia, mention of rape

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.

This book had only come to my attention recently, and I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into (in the best possible way, of course). The fact that I read this as a buddy read with Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog just added to my enjoyment of this book, since it forced me to slow down and truly savor this book.

There are a lot of characters, but they’re introduced slowly over the course of chapters. This allowed me to get to know each of the characters and get a firm grasp on who they were while avoiding the need for info dumps. The characters felt so realistic, morally gray, and wonderfully flawed. Many of them are the perfect foil for another character, offering balance that is much-needed. 

There’s a lot of information that is presented about the history of Kekon and the structure of clans, but it isn’t all thrown at us at once. I never felt overwhelmed by information, and didn’t struggle to keep track of it. 

The clan operates according to a set structure of roles. Once again, these roles weren’t all laid out immediately, but rather were revealed naturally as people in those roles appeared in the story. How all those roles fit together to help the clan function as a whole was laid out beautifully:

“The clan was like a body: The Lantern Men were skin and muscles, the Fists and Luckbringers were like heart and lungs, but the Pillar was the spine. There could be no weakness in the spine, or the body could not stand, it could not fight.”

The magic system was unique and absolutely fascinating. There was a clear cost to using jade, both for Green Bones, and for people who don’t have a tolerance to jade. One of the main characters is a student, learning how to master the various disciplines associated with being a Green Bone, so we not only see the warriors using these skills, but also students training to use them. 

“A truly skilled Green Bone, of the kind Anden and all his classmates desired to be, could call upon any of the six disciplines — Strength, Steel, Perception, Lightness, Deflection, and Channeling — at any time.”

In addition to Green Bones, there are some who are immune to jade. They’re known as stone-eyes, but there’s a stigma associated with them, along with people who are queer:

“The Kekonese viewed queerness as a natural occurrence in the population, much like stone-eyes, and did not blame the person in question any more than one would blame a child for being born deaf. Like stone-eyes, though, they were considered unfortunate and unlucky, a sign that a family had fallen into disfavor with the gods, who saw fit to prune the offending lineage as punishment.”

The story is fast-paced, and full of action. While Becky and I would often try to guess what would happen next, we were frequently stumped. The author has incorporated elements of religion, mythology, culture, and geography, which all came together to create an incredibly engaging story. I couldn’t wait to request the next book in the series, since I absolutely need to know what happens next!

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 15

15 replies »

  1. Fabulous review, Leah! Yours and Becky’s reviews have motivated me to pick this up again (hopefully very soon) and to give it another go. I didn’t get through much of it the first time but I do remember how everything was so well laid out and explained without feeling overwhelmed by all the info. I totally agree that how Fonda weaved all the information together was done spectacularly! Can’t wait to have another go with this now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooooh yay! I am so glad we were able to inspire you to pick this one up again! That’s seriously the highest compliment ever 🙂 I loved how she just dropped in little bits of info so it wasn’t all just thrown at the reader at once.


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