Book Review: Jade War by Fonda Lee

The sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Jade City, Jade War takes us back to the streets of Janloon where tensions between the No-Peak and Mountain clans continue to dangle by a knife’s edge. However, mounting political tensions from external foes forces a frail stalemate to confront the conflicts brewing beyond the island of Kekon, but ones that invite international interest in the marketing of Jade. This war is both a threat to the preservation of Jade practices and serves as an opportunity for both clans to expand their interests whilst protecting the Kekonese culture.

“Out of small resentments, spring great wars.”

The Kaul family remain at the heart of the book. They are the heroes of this tale, but no hero is perfect, and Jade War test the limits of your loyalty through some of the actions they take. The Kaul’s are some of the most endearing characters you will ever meet, but their hands are far from clean. This complexity is just one example of the exemplary characterization within the book. While there’s still plenty of bloodthirsty action, the heart of this sequel was in exploring the deepening relationship between our characters. Once again, Shae is caught between her heart and duty but finds peace within herself as Weather Man. The burden of such responsibilities is heavy and personal, but her strength carries the weight of such consequences. While Hilo, still as unpredictable, grows into a credible leader, shouldering the legacy of the No-Peak clan while retaining his ferociousness as a warrior and fierce love for those he holds dear.

Several characters came into their own in Jade War, but no one shined brighter than Kaul Maik Wen, Hilo’s wife and a stone-eye, someone that has no jade affinity, yet continues to prove her worth and serve the clan in her own meaningful ways. She has the benefit of perspective and her shrewd observations demonstrated just how much of an asset she is. Similarly, Anden comes to understand his own part in this tale through the time he spends in Espenia. Initially resentful of his seeming exile, Anden, in time, comes to value his life there, demonstrating tremendous emotional maturity, and in doing so, allowing him create a path that allows him stay true to himself whilst serving his family. In many ways, Anden and Wen are two characters that perfectly mirror one another, living in a world without truly belonging to it and having to confront their limits, but recognising that they can still protect the family they love and serve the clan in their own way.

“She could never be a Green Bone herself, as much as she felt she was one at heart, but she could think like a Green Bone. She was an enabler, an aide, a hidden weapon, and that was worth something. Perhaps a great deal.”

Jade War also opens itself on a global scale as Kekon, and the use of Jade takes an international interest. The scope of this world is phenomenal and, seeing these alternating perspective on the use of Jade heightened this brewing conflict surrounding the legacy of Jade and its clans. Opening up the world allows Fonda to dive into the socio-political tensions on a global and communal scale, creating a rich and nuanced world that’s vivid and relatable. No action is taken without consequence, explored through heartbreaking personal losses, territorial influences, and international interest. Jade, is no longer confined to the streets of Kekon, and Lee masterfully crafts an intricate relationship between the nature of cause and effect.

5 Stars

What did you think of Jade War?
Any predictions for Jade Legacy?
What’s your favourite fantasy novel?

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Jade War by Fonda Lee

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