Book Review – Jade War

Hello, everyone! I hope the weekend is going well for you all. Today I’m reviewing Jade War by Fonda Lee. I was very excited to read this book after loving the first one in this series. This has easily become one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, and it is so hard to wrap up all my thoughts and feelings concisely into one review. But I’m going to give it my best shot…

In Jade War, the sequel to the Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-nominated 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.

“People are born selfish; babies are the most selfish creatures, even though they’re helpless and wouldn’t survive a day on their own. Growing up and losing that selfishness—that’s what civilization is, that’s what sets us above beasts.”

Social progress, Kekonese-style, Shae mused. Equal opportunity to die by the blade.

“Funny, isn’t it? No matter where you are in the world, the one thing that keeps men from killing each other is a fear of what’ll happen after they’re dead.”

“Change is inevitable, Kaul-jen; the only question is whether we control its direction or become victims of a landslide.”

“Which goes to show that the gods don’t determine fate. People do. Powerful people.”

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It pulled me in from the first page, and I didn’t want to put it down until I was finished. Then, when I was done, I didn’t want it to be over. This was a fully immersive experience that produced a wide range of emotions. I truly got lost in the narrative and had some visceral reactions to things that happened in the book. I audibly gasped so many times while reading and had to calm myself several times by repeating ‘please don’t die’ to the characters. The author does such a wonderful job of bringing this world to life that it feels like you are a part of the action the entire time.

The plot was fascinating and even more intricate than the first book. The world-building was expanded considerably, and this story gave the reader a more in-depth look at the world outside of Janloon. There was tons of political intrigue, which I loved, but I was surprised that the clan disputes and international war did not get more attention than they did. Those conflicts were always looming in the background and, in large part, were the driving force of the narrative, but there was less open warfare and action here than in Jade City. I didn’t really mind the lack of action, though, because the character moments and intrigue made for the perfect connective tissue to keep me engaged between the more action-filled scenes. This book is probably the best balance between plot and character driven elements I’ve read to date.

All of the fantastic characters that survived the first book were back. The time frame of this book was much more spread out than the first, which I liked because it allowed for a natural progression of growth for the characters that didn’t feel forced. All of the characters evolved pretty dramatically. Hilo and Shae both embraced their roles as leaders within the clan. They both faced very difficult decisions, and they did some pretty terrible things in the name of family, which shocked me (especially from Shae given her reluctance to get involved in family affairs throughout the first book). The new children introduced in this story completely stole my heart, and I couldn’t help but worry about them the entire time I was reading. Anden’s story, though, was probably my favorite. I loved getting to explore the wider world through his eyes, and his perspective was an interesting look at what it is like to immigrate to a new country and acclimate to a strange culture. I also really enjoyed his journey of finding his purpose after the events of the last book completely took away the trajectory he had planned for his life. Finally, Wen was also a star in this book. Rather than fight against her nature and place within the clan, she used her ‘limitations’ to achieve great things, even if they did come at a great cost.

I’d be remiss to end this review without pointing out the ridiculous level of skill possessed by this author. For two books now, she has created characters that I’ve cared about in a relatively short amount of time and then destroyed me when she unexpectedly killed them. I’m truly in awe of her ability, and I’m a bit scared of what she will do to the characters in the final book.

Overall, this book was fantastic. The world-building, characters, and plot were exquisite, and I’m a little disappointed there is only one book left. This has easily climbed its way into my top fantasy books of all time. If you haven’t read this series yet, I cannot recommend it enough. Therefore, I rate the book 5 out of 5 stars.

Have you read Jade War? What did you think of the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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