Book Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Series: Green Bone Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: 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. -Goodreads

The Review:

Jade City was a decent start to a series.

Going into this book after hearing about it all over the Vlogosphere for a couple of years, I gotta say it was different than I expected. Between comparisons to The Godfather and the severely brutal Asian fantasy books I’ve read over the last couple of years, I actually avoided reading Jade City for a while because I wasn’t sure I was in the mood to brace for all of those gut-punches. Color me surprised to find the violence actually kind of mild.

This isn’t a bad thing – it makes the series more accessible and helps explain its wild popularity. It could be my general moods leaning towards grimdark lately that have me thinking I wish it had more grit, but that’s purely a preference thing. In that same vein, I also thought it would be more down-in-the-streets nitty-gritty, but it ended up being more of a white-collared political drama.

And I do love some good politicking in books. My favorite parts of Jade City were those slower moments where the schrewdness of the characters gained them some advantage or another. It was fun to watch them put their skills to the test. I also appreciated Fonda Lee’s professional background as a lawyer and how her knowledge of crime in general enhanced the story.

While I found all of the characters interesting profiles to read about, I can’t say as though I feel any particular connection to them yet. This may be the only reason I’m not singing praises for the series at this juncture. I’m not too bothered by it though. I’m guessing the magic of the series is in the trilogy as a whole rather than based on the merits of this first book. I look forward to seeing what the next two bring to the table.

One last thing – I wish the Jade magic had been explored more.

Recommendations: pick this book up for a highly character-driven political crime novel. It has just enough magic to add some flavor, but I wouldn’t call that aspects one of the selling points yet. I think a lot of people will (and have had) a lot of fun with this first book.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes