At the beginning of this year, I picked up a book that nearly everyone on my Twitter timeline was obsessed about. Jade City fever had hit the book community towards the end of 2018 and it was difficult not to succumb to the hype when practically every reviewer that I trust swore by it. Once I started reading it, I immediately understood why.
Jade City was A RIDE so WILD that I struggled to hold on to my dear life. I had no idea where we were going but I enjoyed every moment of it. There was a magic mafia, martial arts, and family drama – Jade City has been described as The Godfather but with magic and for good reason.
When Shealea (@Shutup, Shealea and @CaffeineTours) announced that she had the honor of organizing an international blog tour of Jade City‘s sequel, Jade War, I signed up for it so fast that I barely had the time to blink. I knew that there were only limited slots and with my humble blog’s stats I didn’t really have much hope but still I had to shoot my shot.
By some stroke of luck, I got in! I returned to Janloon, said my oaths to the Pillar of No Peak once again, and experienced the absolute rollercoaster ride that was Jade War.
In Jade War, the sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.
On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.
Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.
Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.
Jade War is the second book of the Green Bone Saga, an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Fonda Lee, Shealea, Caffeine Blog Tours, and Orbit Books for the opportunity!
Back to Janloon
Before I go on, if you for some reason haven’t read the first book and still aren’t convinced to even pick it up, here’s a little background on the series. Jade City tells the story of the Kaul family, head of No Peak clan which is one of the two ruling clans of the small but proud island of Kekon. What makes the seemingly country so powerful is that it’s the only place in the world where you can get jade, a magical stone that grants people superhuman abilities with the right training and preparation. Those deemed worthy to carry jade are known as Green Bones and are essentially the backbone of the country. When No Peak’s rival, the Mountain, tries to destroy the Kauls, the entire feudalistic country of Kekon is brought to its knees.
Jade War opens about a year after the events of Jade City. The No Peak clan are in an uneasy stalemate with the Mountain clan but both sides know that the other is just biding their time until the next wave of attacks.
Being back in the capital of Kekon, Janloon, I was surprised at how different things were. I mean, there were still feuding clans, proud Green Bones, and jade-fevered criminals, but there is a distinct change in Janloon’s ambiance. While in Jade City, there was a relative ease in the day-to-day life in Kekon. Besides the few reckless thieves foolish enough to try to steal jade from Green Bones and arrogant foreign bodies ignorant enough to believe themselves entitled to jade themselves, the clans in Kekon coexisted harmoniously which meant citizens enjoyed peace and prosperity. However, in Jade War, coexistence is a distant memory. Sure, both clans have stopped outwardly attacking the other but that doesn’t mean the war is over. On the contrary, the war on the streets of Janloon was only the beginning
The best way I could describe Jade War is that it’s a really slow burn clan war that I know will end in a stab in the gut… but I just don’t know when and where.
Old Enemies and New
One of the things that Fonda Lee really knows how to do is writing conflict so compelling that readers feel as trapped and as threatened as the main characters. Ayt Mada, Pillar of the Mountain clan, is still the primary antagonist that the Kaul siblings face but she’s far from the only enemy in Jade War.
No Peak’s efforts to build relations with outside forces does give them an upper hand in the battlefield but it also gets them even more enemies than before. Foreigners, smugglers, and criminals all want jade and No Peak is right in the middle of it all. You really do feel like the walls are closing in as the book progresses because it seems like everything the main characters do only traps them in even more.
Jade War succeeds in showing just how dangerous the world is when you’re at the top. No Peak has power, influence, and, most important of all, jade – yet they’re in a precarious position that could lead to their ruin with just one wrong move. It’s masterful plotting, I tell you.
Green to the Bone
Another thing that I loved about Jade War was the characters. Hilo, the current Pillar of No Peak, has really grown into his role beautifully. And Shae! Literally No Peak would have sunk without her as Weatherman.
This is probably gonna be a bit long but bear with me because I really want to talk about Kaul Hilo. Honestly, I wasn’t especially fond of him in the first book. Mainly because he was too violent and hasty, the type of person that shoots first and asks questions later – not my favorite type of character. Hilo had always seemed like a volatile person so when he became the Pillar of No Peak, I was apprehensive. However, in Jade War, Hilo really grew on me. His fiery spirit and aggressiveness is still there but his more sensible qualities shone through. While he’s not as much of a tactician as Shae, his emotional intelligence is impeccably high. He has an inherent understanding of other people’s emotions and he uses that knowledge to encourage them, motivate them to be better. A lesser person would have used that knowledge to manipulate others to do their bidding but Hilo values interpersonal relationships and would never use underhanded methods to gain his people’s loyalty. He also makes a point to get to know his people, to make sure they know him as a person and not just as a Pillar, even when there are hundreds of them. There’s this line in the book that perfectly describes him:
“When Kaul Hilo gave a difficult order, he did so in a way that showed he understood it was difficult; it was why his men would do anything he asked of them.”Jade War, Fonda Lee
And that’s why we stan.
Another stand out character in Jade War was Kaul Maik Wen, wife of the Pillar of No Peak. In the first book, Wen mostly had a minor role but the few chapters she was in, it was clear that she was a formidable character in her own right, stone-eye (people who aren’t affected by jade) or no. In this book, Kaul Maik Wen was a force to be reckon with. And even more impressive was how low key she was. She’s basically the pillar of the Pillar. I can’t go into further detail without veering into spoiler territory but I will say this: Wen is the unsung hero of No Peak, don’t @ me.
Not only are the individual characters solid, their relationships with one another is fantastic and extremely realistic. Despite both being grown adults responsible for running a huge clan, Shae and Hilo still love to infuriate each other as siblings often do. The family dynamics of the Kauls is sweet and grounded, it really stressed how human these characters were.
World of Blood and Jade
I can write a whole post on the Jade War’s epic worldbuilding alone but seeing as this review is already pretty lengthy, I’ll be as concise as I can.
When you read Jade War, you really feel like you’re in the story’s world. Not only is Kekon well developed as a setting but the other countries like Espenia and the Uwiwan Islands felt real as well. Each country had its own extensive history and social, political, and economic relationship with Kekon. I loved that jade and its magical properties was what tied all of these countries together. It gave the worldbuilding a cohesiveness that made it easier for readers to understand what to expect from those foreign countries.
How each country viewed jade also provided a lot of information on that country’s culture and general attitudes. For instance, in Kekon, jade is revered as a power coming from the gods themselves. Espenia, on the other hand, sees jade as a scientific marvel that they have yet to fully understand (but goddammit are they determined to crack the code). They are generally wary of it but are well aware of its benefits so they’d do anything to get their hands on it. Espenians don’t care about Kekon’s beliefs or traditions surrounding jade so they can’t understand why the Kekonese don’t just sell jade to the highest bidder. The contrast between these two really gives the story world much depth and vibrance.
Meanwhile, the magic system of jade deserves its own blog post but, again, I’ll be brief. From the start, jade has always had a strictly defined set of advantages and disadvantages. While you can gain superhuman strength, speed, perception, and so on with jade, it doesn’t come without a price. The reason why jade is treated with so much respect is because not everyone can wield it. You have to be worthy of jade in order to wear it. Untrained individuals aren’t able to handle the powers of jade and often end up dying because of it. However, anyone who touches jade feel an addictive exhilaration that they’ll do anything to feel again and again, which is why people are willing to kill and die for jade.
The consequences of jade balance out its magical properties and I think that the way Lee wrote such a simple yet intricate system behind jade is incredible. One day I’m going to dissect just how expertly Fonda Lee wove magic into her world, how it affected the culture of Kekon and the surrounding countries, but for now all I’ll say is that if you’re a fan of well developed magic system and elaborate worldbuilding, you need to pick up this series.
Green Bone Saga – Sequel
Finally let me just touch on Jade War as a sequel. As I repeatedly say on my Sequel Sunday series, sequels are really tricky to get right, especially in trilogies. Jade War, however, managed not only to be a great book but also an outstanding sequel.
Jade War gave us what we loved in Jade City and built on it to lengths that we didn’t even know to expect. The world and the story feels bigger and the characters have all grown and developed. Unlike other sequels, this book felt like it didn’t slow down the action, even when there were considerably less fights in Jade War than there were in Jade City.
Furthermore, Jade War got me really excited for the last book in the trilogy. Jade War teased a lot of upcoming events in the finale and I for one cannot wait for it.
Kaul Family Fan art
Drawing people – or people shapes – is not my forte but I couldn’t help but give it a try for my tour stop. So anyway here’s how I picture my three favorite Kauls in the Green Bone Saga:
Hilo doesn’t have light brown eyes or sharp teeth in the canon, I think, but I’ve always pictured him to have striking features that make him look intimidating and fierce.
I know that most people picture Shae with short hair (even a pixie cut) and I understand that it’s more convenient for fighting and general upkeep but… I wanted to give her an academic chic bun.
Gave my boy Anden a little hint of a beard because he’s a man now.
Can’t get enough of Jade War? Check out the other stops in the #JadeWarTour!
About the Author
Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for adults and teens. She is the author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City (Orbit), which won the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award, and was named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. The second book in the Green Bone Saga, Jade War, releases in the summer of 2019. Fonda’s young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer (Flux), Exo and Cross Fire (Scholastic), have garnered numerous accolades including being named Junior Library Guild Selection, Andre Norton Award finalist, Oregon Book Award finalist, Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. In 2018, Fonda gained the distinction of winning the Aurora Award, Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award, twice in the same year for Best Novel and Best Young Adult Novel.
Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever.
Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon