Jade War by Fonda Lee
A couple years ago I read this urban fantasy called Jade City and it blew me away. It was essentially about mobster like families fighting for control of their homeland. And these families have magical abilities from this very special jade. And it was set in the beautiful well developed Asian country of Janloon. It was just so imaginative, fun and original. When the sequel came out, I had to read it. So here is my review of Jade War by Fonda Lee.
So what is it about? In this book the two dueling clans, the No peak Clan and Mountain Clan make a temporary truce to keep their out of control conflict from hurting innocent citizens of Janloon. But this truce is in truth, a cold war between the two. The book follows the Kaul family as they try to build up their strength, and outwit the blood thirsty Ayt, ruler of the Mountain Clan. And as they try to do so with politics, foreign affairs, and anything to undermine Ayt to make her weaker without straight forward violence. But least to say it will escalate into something they didn’t see coming.
In this overarching story, the Kaul family drama becomes the central part of the tale. Hilo has been appointed ruler of half of Janloon after his brother’s murder. And Hilo is not meant to be the pillar (the cultural name for ruler in this country). He has lived his whole life as a killer. And now he must control his temper to try to rule his half of the country as well as his brother did. His sister Shae has given up everything to become his advisor. Once wanting nothing to do with her family, now she had the future of half the country on her shoulders while keeping her brother in check. The youngest, Anden has been exiled because of his refusal to use jade magic like the rest of the family. So he is making his way in a new country. Then lastly, Wen, who has married into the family becomes an essential part of the family with an interesting arch. All their story lines tie together in an epic conclusion.
So the good and bad? Let’s start with the bad. The biggest complaint I had with this story is the politics. Hilo and Shae establishing treaties and trade with the country of Espensa was so boring. Andren even somehow gets involved with a different version of that. And seeing them find a nonviolent way to undermine the Mountain Clan by doing this is just so dull. I had to set the book down for a little while because I was just so bored. Also another thing about this book is that Hilo is unlikable and is an unstable ruler. If Shae wasn’t there he would have no moral compass. There’s one moment where he does something when Shae is not around that is unforgivable.
The good? The second half is amazing. It’s a return to form. The action kicks up. The mafia /yakuza element returns with shootouts and murder. And everyone’s arch is exciting, tragic, and has consequences that changed them all forever. How their fates and story arcs are weaved together is done fantastically. And that finale is great. That scene at the end where the whole family comes together in the aftermath was beautiful.
Overall, this is a good book. It’s a slow burn though. Every scene in the first half has its purpose leading up to the grand finale. But all the politics are a bit of a slog to get through, at least for me. I know so many Game of Thrones fans tend to love that stuff though. So if you love the sort of stuff, this is must read. For the rest of use, it’s a pretty good read, despite 200 pages of slog. But because of that it’s not as good as the first it does get a slightly lower rating than its prior entry.
Overall Rating: A Slow Burn to an Epic Finale.
4 1/2 smoothies out of Five