Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1) by Fonda Lee (2017)
Fiction | Urban Fantasy
JADE CITY is a gripping Godfather-esque saga of intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.
The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.
The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.
When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.
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pooled ink Review:
The blurb and cover both immediately intrigued me so I bought a copy…and it sat on my TBR pile for months. Why? No idea. Sometimes that just happens. BUT THEN! I finally picked it up…and put it down. Again, why? NO IDEA. Honestly I was so frustrated with myself because everything about it had me so excited and yet I couldn’t seem to sit still long enough to give it a go.
And then one day, I did.
BEHOLD! A NEW FAVE!
Jade City was precisely what I was hoping for: a gritty, Asian-inspired urban fantasy featuring family, gangs, magic, political intrigue, blood feuds, romance, and more. IT WAS SO GOOD YOU GUYS!
The book centers around the Kaul family, the head of a powerful syndicate called the No Peak clan, and the story managed to simultaneously make me fear and love them. There’s Kaul Sen, the legendary grandfather who survived war and though he’s finally stepped down as the head of their clan he’s not ready to let go of the reins entirely. Then Kaul Lan, the new head (or “Pillar” as they call it) of the No Peak clan who has a lot to live up to and prove especially since his temper is more even than his predecessors’. Lan’s younger brother Kaul Hilo is the “Horn” or the head enforcer and has a ruthless hot bloodedness paired with a respect for his brother that makes him perfect for the job. He’s also secretly in love with the sweet Maik Wen despite her being a “stone-eye” aka immune to the jade that gives them power. Then there is their sister, the prodigal daughter of sorts, the rebellious Kaul Shae who ran off with a foreigner and has finally returned home after years abroad and she’s still determined to do her own thing no matter what expectations her family might have. Finally there’s Emery Anden, the younger cousin still training his powers at the Academy.
There are of course several other characters such as Wen’s brothers Tar and Kehn whom work for Hilo, Doru who is the “Weather Man” or advisor whom still serves old Kaul Sen over Lan, and a bunch of others for good or for worse but I’m going to focus mostly on the main part of the Kaul family.
The book opens up with a scene that is not from the POV of a Kaul family member, but does a fantastic job of setting them up. We learn about jade, how the clans are viewed from outsiders, how the Kauls are viewed, etc. all within one swift chapter told from the eyes of a hungry teenager itching for the dream chasing his every moment. It packs a lot in without feeling dense or heavy handed. It’s an effortless, natural fitting explosion that says a lot with a look then walks away shaking its head. It’s natural to immediately side with the narrator/main character and yet Fonda Lee uses this inclination to flip us over her shoulder and say now here’s the story and welcome to Jade City.
Learning about the magic of the jade and how it played a role in the nation of Kekon and the rise of the Green Bone clans was fascinating and rolled out at a natural pace, woven throughout the story instead of dumped on your head all at once. The Kaul family as well was unveiled piece by piece showing the various sides of each, both what they allowed others to see and what they kept fiercely protected. The storytelling itself jumps around between POVs and for this sort of book it was an excellent choice because we just get so much more out of it. I, personally, didn’t have trouble following the POV changes even though they weren’t blatantly declared as, say, chapter headings, but it does keep you on your toes.
I think that the world-building is fantastic, which is important, but that the strength of this book lies with its main cast of characters and the complex emotions they wrestle with as they face various challenges within and without the clan. No matter what the Kauls may or may not do, no matter the power they have and the ruthlessness with which they hold it, the reader is still swayed to their side sympathizing with them, rooting for them, and celebrating their victories as well as stinging at their losses. At the end of the day, the Kauls will win your loyalty and it is for them that you will stay and read the next book. I know I certainly will.
Beware that this book isn’t all action and pizzazz, it’ll also threaten emotional damage as it seamlessly binds your heart to the clan where you’ll teeter on the edge ever at risk of shattering each time the clan is struck. This story isn’t all fluffy pillows and puppies. You’ve been warned. Tears may be shed, rage may be screamed, but it will be done so by the clan’s side. Jade City has already cemented itself as a book I will remember for a long long time and it’s only the beginning of the legendary Green Bone Saga.
Jade City introduces a world of magic, crime, and family that will instill a loyalty within any reader not easily abandoned. Brilliant, complex, gritty, thrilling, and never forgetting its heart, prepare for a ride that will shake your hand then shove you off the ledge, dangling in its grip, and despite the risk that hungry smile will never leave your eyes.
Similar Recommended Reads: Dark Gifts trilogy by Vic James, Fifth Sun series by Talis Jones, The Poppy War trilogy by R.F. Kuang
Meet Fonda Lee!
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Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the epic Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and Jade Legacy. She is also the author of the acclaimed science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo and Cross Fire.
Fonda is as a three-time winner of the Aurora Award (Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award), and a multiple finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and the Oregon Book Award. Her novels have garnered multiple starred reviews, been included on numerous state reading lists, named Junior Library Guild selections, and appeared on Best of Year lists from NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others.
Fonda is a former corporate strategist and black belt martial artist who loves action movies and Eggs Benedict. Born and raised in Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.