Jade City will pull you into its immersive world. It will lure you with its complex and compelling characters. It astonishes you with combat scenes and a rich magical history. All in all, Jade City is my most recent five star review for all the right reasons – it is captivating!
In the streets of Kekon, there are two things that rule your status: jade and clan membership. The country was built on the struggle of the Green Bone warriors who fought for their exclusive right to the jade that runs beneath the ground, lending its magical amplifying power to those who can wear it. Because of this, clans were established and the modern day of Kekon is organized by your loyalty, family, and duty to the clan.
But a new war is brewing, one between those who would honor the past, and those who want to blaze into the future – whatever the cost. Before the world was organized by a simple rule, those who could wear jade and those who couldn’t. But now a new drug has been invented, one that would allow anyone to wear and wield jade. With this new invention, it seems that Kekon is in for another war, one that has global ramifications and will change the face of Kekon forever.
I do not know why it has taken me so long to read something by Fonda Lee. I only started recently hearing whispers of Lee on the Twitter universe via a friend’s blog, Read Think Ponder (and her review of Exo). But now that I have gotten on that band wagon, I am fully strapped in and ready for another ride. Apparently Jade City is Lee’s first departure into adult fantasy, but you would not be able to tell, because it suffers from none of the flaws that a writer sometimes undergoes when switching audiences.
Immersive World Building
The world of Jade City is almost as addictive as the jade itself. There is a richness, a lushness, to the setting that is absolutely entrancing. We are given pieces of the culture, the history, and the magical properties of jade. There are even mini chapters in between with folklore and legends of the society that have subtle implications, and references, for the story. At the same time, we are taught about the way the past struggles against those who wished to steal the jade for themselves compared to the conflict of today’s question: how much do we open ourselves up to globalization? This vivid setting accurately demonstrates the tension within the book that runs underneath the entire foundations of the plot: progress versus tradition.
An intricate plot that runs through the storyline. Jade City is this magical fantasy world which met up with gang conflicts to channel a story about greed. Through alternating point of views, we see all these threads of the story before everyone else. It’s like we have taken a step behind the magic curtain, to see all these people, these strangers that will come onto the stage, and we need to wait for them to enter. And when they come onto the stage, they capture our heart.
These characters are just pure art. There is a complexity, a vulnerability, and a likeability that I could have never predicted. At the heart of this story is a tale about family – and I could not easily pick my favorite one of the siblings: Hilo, Shae, Lan, or Anden. Something in each one of them is not only redeemable, but also endears them. Whether it’s Hilo’s big heart, or Shae’s feeling of being lost, Lan’s generous spirit, or Anden’s vulnerability, there is something about each of them that just makes you feel like you’ve known them for longer than the hours it takes to read this book. I would be friends with each and every one of them. At the end of the book, it feels like you are part of their family. (But Shae, you’re my secret favorite, okay? It was love at first sight).
Even the side characters have the same disarming quality, which feels like you’re meeting a person, only seeing a glimpse, but realizing there’s so much more to them. I think it is a result of Lee’s brilliant writing. There is a lot of telling – through the world and the way the jade works – but there is an equal amount of showing. We are shown characters whose mannerisms hint at something else, some complex history we have yet to glean. Lee writes characters with hidden depths.
Wrapped up in all of this fantastic world building is the magical nature of jade: how it amplifies only our natural abilities and can be used for great power and evil. I mean, with a tag line like that, is it no wonder I was hooked? This book just reels you in slowly. One second you think you’re in for an enjoyable book, and then five hours later and you’ve been sitting in the same chair utterly bewitched by the world you have been reading.
To say I am excited for the sequel feels like a gross understatement. While I am overjoyed I read this early, it just means I have to wait for longer until the next one. There’s more at stake than family unity or the life of the clan – the entire world hangs on this precipice that will either tip their society into ruin or riches. The question now is where do they stand? A hair’s breadth away from the cliff, or with their toes dangling over the edge?
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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