Author: Fonda Lee
Fiction > Adult > Fantasy > Urban Fantasy
Published/Publisher: November 7th 2017 by Orbit
Format Read In: Audiobook
Summary from Goodreads (GOODREADS LINK)
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.
TW: mildly explicit sex scenes, use of the term ‘queer’ by a non-queer person, demonization of mental illness, mention of sexual exploitation of a minor, racism
I’ve been pretty hyped for this book ever since it came out! The premise sounds awesome and everyone was talking about how intricate and intense the story is. The cover isn’t particularly pretty but I love the shade of green used.
What I Liked
- The audiobook narrator was amazing!
- What Lee does with great skill is set the groundwork to explore interesting topics, such as the gap between generations in relation to foreigners, and foreign-sourced culture, especially when the older generation remembers waging a horrible war with said foreigners. I get the sense that this will become more relevant in later books.
- Another topic that is briefly touched on is the concept of superstition and how burdening it can be for a society. The aboriginals of Kekon, the Abukei, are not affected by jade the way the Kekonese are. Stone eyes are Kekonese born with a recessive genetic trait that makes them immune to the powers of jade. Both groups are thought to be cursed, bad luck and savages, when in fact, in a world where people too sensitive to jade fall ill, the Abukei and stone eyes are in a unique position to see the truth of jade but neither are given prominent roles in society. I hope future books touch on the bigotry towards both groups.
- The intricacy of the world-building, and how it revolves around jade is so well-thought out! Something I also hope will be touched on later is just how much faith people put on jade, and how this faith comes at the price of dehumanizing certain groups. Lee has mentioned before that she treats the magic of jade like a science and it really shows in the narrative, although people try to ascribe spiritual and traditional meanings to the use of jade. On top of that, the gang organization and the importance of honour and hierarchy among the Green Bone clans is so tantalizing; I never was someone who was interested in movies like The Godfather but I think Jade City‘s changed my mind on the genre.
- We deserve an Ayt Mada POV. She is one of the most brutal villains I’ve ever encountered, without being shown spilling blood by her own hands, and because we never see her perspective on things, she remains somewhat of a mystery which makes her all the more interesting.
- I really loved Shay. Here is a woman born in the male-dominated world of Green Bones, desperate to be respected by her people, then desperate to be separate from her gang family, aligning with foreigners and running off from her homeland to explore another culture. She is ultimately the future of Kekon, if Lee plans to parallel real-world history, as she is one of a few Kekonese who are willing to open up to the outside world. In this way, she understands Mada so much that I can’t wait for these two women to interact more. I felt for Shay when, upon her return to Kekon, ashamed and embarrassed, she refused to wear her jade until necessary and wouldn’t let her family, particularly Hilo, make her feel bad for choosing not to engage with clan violence. It felt like despite everything she’d gone through, she was trying so hard to make choices for herself but circumstances pushed her in directions she’d never have chosen, all in the name of loyalty and love to her family. In that way, she also understands Hilo, and is an effective cross-road between him and Mada.
- I think in certain ways, I love Lan for similar reasons as Shay. He is a peacetime Piller (the head of the No Peak clan) in a moment in Kekon history when war is brewing. This makes his insecurities all the more potent, and his struggle with his precarious position coupled with the fact that he is an amazing leader, appears a lot like Shay’s struggles with her position in the family coupled with the fact that she is a genuinely brilliant strategist. Basically, Lan and Shay expertly toe the line between being unsure of their skills and being aware of their own competence, without the baggage of over-confidence nor weighted hesitancy.
- I LOVE ANDEN. MY BOY. MY SON. I feel like I’ve effectively given my thoughts on my love for Shay and Lan, but I don’t think there’s enough time in the world for me to explain how much I love Andi, how his struggles with the fear of hereditary mental illness, his own desires for violence, his shame over being biracial, can be so familiar to those in similar positions. So please accept this hastily put-together meme in place of my full thoughts:
What I Didn’t Like
Okay, I’ll just come right out and say it: I don’t like Kaul Hilo.
- He emotionally manipulates the people he claims to care about. The worst part is that he genuinely believes he is doing it for the clan, when you can tell it’s just for himself.
- If someone doesn’t fall into place as he imagines, he completely disregards them.
- He doesn’t even try to understand why Shay, a woman in a male-dominated world, would try so hard to best him in everything. He doesn’t see the miles she has to run just for people to see them as equals.
- I also don’t like how he found Shay embarrassing and a shame to the family when she didn’t understandably want to wear her jade. She isn’t perfect but again, he doesn’t want to understand why she does what she does. Shay at least seems to see the similarities between herself and Hilo.
- He is a man that is destined to push everyone who loves away. When that happens, I hope it won’t be too late for him to realize his mistakes.
- All this being said, there is one singular thing I like about Hilo that does not eclipse all my problems with him but does reign just as strongly in my mind: he alone passes judgement on a person, without caring about their status or of traditional superstition. It’s the trait in him that draws people in and helps him build a tight-knit family, and it’s the trait that I expect will be his character salvation.
Other than Hilo…
- Wen, Hilo’s love interest, isn’t an interesting character so far. She is mainly used to prop up Hilo. For most of the book, she could be replaced by a sexy lamp and it would have no effect on the story (see: The Sexy Lamp Test). A shame, considering that through her we could have explored stone eyes. Generally, she is written like a man wrote her, when we are in Hilo’s POV (if you know what I mean by this, then you understand) and it isn’t yet clear to me if that was on purpose or not. If it’s on purpose, I hope she either leaves Hilo or straightens him up. If it’s not on purpose, then…yikes.
- Without getting into spoilers, I hope Doru eats shit and soon.
- Bero is the Worst. That’s it. But I have a stinking suspicion that he is less of a character and more like the embodiment of the greed for jade; immortal and cruel.
Since I’ve finished this book, I will often catch myself remembering the characters and certain scenes, and I honestly don’t think I even captured every thought I have about this book in my review. So despite the fact that I don’t like one of the prominent protagonists, this is a story that has successfully wormed it’s way into my mind, made me care about all the players involved, terrified for their futures and the future of Kekon, and that is powerful. For that reason, I would highly recommend Jade City. I’m on the waiting list for Jade War and I simply cannot wait!
My Rating: 5/5