My 2018 has been a great year in terms of reading books written by Asian authors. One particular read that unexpectedly caught my heart and blew me away was Jade City, the first book in Fonda Lee‘s ambitious Green Bone Saga. Now, its über anticipated sequel, Jade War, has been published. I was given the chance to read an advanced copy of the book as part the #JadeWarTour courtesy of Orbit Books, Caffeine Book Tours and Shealea of Shut up, Shealea. So… here are my thoughts:
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.
Title: Jade War
Series: #2 of The Green Bone Saga
Author: Fonda Lee
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Last year, I made the grievous mistake of not writing a review after I read Jade City – but now, I am professing my love for the Green Bone Saga. Here’s a breakdown of what I absolutely loved about Jade War:
Family and the dynamics between external and internal responsibilities
“We have each other, and maybe that’s the one thing we have that our enemies don’t.”
Before anything else, the clan wars and politics, this book is about family and how a family navigates the added responsibility of leading a clan. While (Jade City spoilers ahead!) Lan’s death truly was the thing that turned everything around for me, it was fascinating to watch the remaining Kaul siblings handle everything post his death and how they both rose to the occasion. He may seem short-sighted and temperamental but Kaul Hiloshudon was truly made to be a wartime Pillar. While I acknowledge the fact that Hilo indeed made some questionable and inexcusable choices during the course of this book, it was interesting to witness his transformation from the hot-headed Horn that he was to the Pillar that he is now – impulsive yet strategic, radical but controlled – he was a walking contradiction and that made for a really interesting main character. Seeing the affection and devotion he was willing to give to his family, the lengths he was willing to go to and the lines he was willing to cross for them was heartwarming and (sometimes) heartbreaking.
“The clan is my blood and the Pillar is its master,” she whispered. “I have a lot of regrets in life, but those oaths aren’t one of them.”
Shae‘s narrative has provided us some of the most jaw-dropping and heartbreaking scenes in this book. I’ve been in a roller coaster ride with this woman but, really, I am just in awe of how much of an incredible person she is. Here is a woman who knows what she wants, educated, opinionated, open-minded and is not afraid to make difficult choices for the sake of the good of all. Her relationship with Wen and Hilo has been one of my anchors throughout the book.
On the other hand, I know most people have rambled on and on about Anden in this book so let me just say this: the twist at the end of his narrative in this book was surprising but not unexpected – it felt right. It would be interesting to know how it will play out, where this would take him and how it would impact the world of the green bones (I am guessing *a lot*).
The main characters in this book are complex and fully fleshed out that you won’t be able to look away. They would grab you by the wrist and force you to see everything unravel. The sacrifices that each of them have given because of the clan were heartbreaking. For a fantasy book, Jade War being rooted in human emotions and complex family relations served as one of the fundamental tethers that kept this story grounded.
Challenging established gender politics
The abundant presence of strong women in this fictional society and narrative is such a thrilling thing. I don’t know if I just don’t read enough stories which puts women in such a high pedestal despite the toxic masculine culture but The Green Bone Saga is a ground-breaking thing for my reading experience. Ayt Madashi is the Pillar of No Peak’s rival clan, The Mountain. Kaul Shaelinsan is No Peak clan’s Weatherman. And Kaul Maik Wenruxian, wife to No Peak’s Pillar, stone-eye and overall bad ass woman – greener than most and is, officially, my favorite character in this book.
I mean… I’ve loved Shae ever since the first book… but the journey that Wen have gone through and where the narrative took her? Un-fucking-believable.
“We serve the clan in the way we’re best suited.
When society expects her to be meek, submissive and leave when the clan meetings start, she took on an active role from the sidelines – one which is crucial to No Peak’s survival. She acknowledges her limitations and capabilities and uses them to her and her family’s advantage. She understands that people can’t all be leaders but they can do whatever they can to support them. From simply easing Hilo’s doubts and concerns before they go to sleep, to being strong and rooted for the family in times of immense tragedies, and to outright managing a network of spies far from unsuspecting eyes – Wen proved that each has a value in the clan if they choose to.
Also, one particular thing that I feel that I should mention: there is one fight scene just a bit short near the end of this story that read pretty profound to me. I was so used to reading fight scenes where an opponent is reduced to be the “lesser” one just because of gender – it may be the huffing, the faltering in steps, or just some occasional remarks like ‘don’t make me do this’ – maybe it wasn’t stated outright, but one or the other, it was there. When I read *that* particular fight scene, it made me really uncomfortable. It was brutal and violent – two warriors, fighting to the limits, equal in all ways. It was like how a man challenges a man to fight and they go all out. And it made me realize that media has built this notion in my head of how a man and a woman should fight, and this scene making me uncomfortable means that it’s doing something different. Not to be violent or whatever but for the first time, I was able to read a fight without picturing the gender in my head and applying expectations because of it. I wish more people would write fight scenes like this.
Global economy and politics
Just this aspect alone sets the Green Bone Saga apart from its peers. I am a business major and I get so giddy when books get it totally right. Besides clan wars and internal familial drama, Jade War tackles the increasing demand for international relations and trade for the clan and nation’s survival. The world outside of Janloon was fleshed out to surprising detail. I’ve had a bit of a problem with some fantasy novels that I’ve read before because it was too focused in what’s going on “in” that you can’t imagine anything outside of it. What’s absolutely great about The Green Bone Saga is that it was able to show that this world that we care about participates in a grander scheme of things and is a part of something bigger – one that makes the reader excited to know more about. One thing’s for sure:the world-building in Jade War was sublime.
It also served as a great narrative tool. There are times when the talks of war and global politics have put my guard down and made me unsuspecting – because it was stable and technical and devoid of emotion (but are still equally as interesting, don’t get me wrong). Then you would be hit with unexpected and jaw dropping moments. And Bam! – you’re gasping for air. The way Fonda Lee alternates between global strategic power moves/stories to personal explosive moments was pretty fascinating as a reader. It makes you on edge and engaged. It’s perfect.
“Damaged, yes—but alive, and growing, with its own allies, resources, and implacable vengefulness.”
Jade War is one of the strongest sequels I’ve read so far – ever! It was more explosive, bigger in scope. It will hit you right where it was supposed to and then some. I never thought I could love this series so much more. I was prepared to read Jade War regardless of anything because I already became too invested to even stop – but Fonda Lee delivered and have given us more that what we asked for. This book is an absolute gift – for fantasy readers and readers in general – and more people should know about it.
So what are you waiting for? Go get a copy now! You won’t be sorry and maybe you’ll even thank me for it. 🙂
You can read a sneak peak here.
“A misunderstanding between friends is okay. A misunderstanding between enemies isn’t.”
“I think it’s the opposite of cowardice to be true to who you are.”
“To hold on to power, one must deny it to others.
‘Too dark to see green’
I decided to letter the famous No Peak oath by hand. I tried looking for a green brush ink (obviously, for the green in our blood!) to go with it and was very happy to have one in my case.
● Pen/ink: Sailor Shikiori Brush Pen in Waka-uguisu (Young Nightingale)
● Paper: Copelle Gold Edition Dotted Notebook / 55 gsm
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.
HAVE YOU READ JADE WAR ALREADY? IF YES, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE BOOK? Comment up and let’s talk! 🙂