Red (cover) Means Stop and Go Read Jade War

Wow. It’s hard to believe that three months have already passed since I read, reviewed, and loved Jade City by Fonda Lee. I was anxious to jump immediately into the sequel, Jade War, but it seemed like other priorities kept cropping up (like a bunch of Hugo Award nominees).

Anyway, with only thirteen days left to spare until the last book in the trilogy comes out (Jade Legacy), I’m very excited to say I’ve finished Jade War and . . .

I absolutely loved it!

Like any good sequel, all of the elements of the original were present, and like any good sequel, they escalated in a natural fashion which felt new yet inevitable. Like any good sequel those new elements hinted at an exciting future to come.

But Jade War moved past what a good sequel does and on to the realm of what a good book does. This book kind of defied my ability to stop and analyze what aspects of the story were good or bad; I was too busy enjoying it. (and having a lot of feelings)

Now that is not to say that the book is perfect. Every book has some parts that stand out as being perhaps of a lower caliber than other parts, and unfortunately with a book this good, it made those parts stand out a bit, but I’ll admit that they were out shown immediately by the parts that were great.

So let’s start with the good parts 🙂

As in Jade City, the intriguing parts of Jade War were undeniably the setting, the intercharacter relationships (read as family drama), and its tight and often racing plot. If you’re unfamiliar with any part of the Green Bone Saga, author Fonda Lee describes it as â€œThe Godfather with magic and kung fu”. Jade War seems to lean more heavily on the Godfather part of that description than perhaps Jade City did.

For one, the violence (as you might expect in a war as opposed to a city) seems much more present throughout the novel, and while I don’t recall a lot of gore, it was still much more grim somehow. Vengeance was in no short supply during Jade City, but its execution felt more purposeful (for the characters, Lee definitely had a purpose in depicting these scenes), and there was a kind of nobility in that.

In Jade War, it becomes clear that the Kauls have been fighting for too long, and everyone — on all sides — has lost that sense of purpose. The Green Bone code, Aisho, seems to be quickly evaporating and each act of violence is escalated in hopes that it will scare off the next one, but of course there is always a next one. One death in particular seemed like it could have come straight out of the show Breaking Bad, another story in which murder is as much a personal statement as it is a path to victory.

Of course, all this violence and gang related war is just what’s happening at home in Janloon. We also have war abroad in several different countries, which further builds up this world, and provides (literally) more space for conflict. Perhaps the main expansion we see is from the perspective of Anden who — I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say — moves to Espenia.

I had some trouble figuring out exactly which real world country Espenia was supposed to represent, but after chatting with some friends we decided that it was firmly America. These scenes were fascinating not only because of the expanded possibilities they present for the book’s themes of war and violence, but because they also seemed to represent a kind of immigration story which had its own unique power and sentiment.

Finally, there was the family drama . . . and boy if it didn’t keep hitting me right in the feels. I won’t spoil each revelation here, but I can easily think of at least five different parts of the novel which had me going: “Whaaat!?”. In contrast to Jade City‘s one epic shock, this might seem like too much, or that it might dilute the value of each of these events, but I didn’t feel that way at all while reading. I mostly just wanted to read further to see how it was going to play out.

The only portion I didn’t like about the novel was ‘the Crews’ Anden contends with over in Espenia. To me they seemed to draw just a little two heavily from 1920’s American gangster archetypes to the point of almost being cartoonish. Their introduction is perhaps one of the only info dumps I ever read by Fonda Lee which in a weird way was its own kind of incredible.

But that was pretty much it for bad . . .

So . . . ?

Probably stop reading this and go read Jade War. It is everything I loved about Jade City and also a lot more. I am beyond anxious to see what happens in the final chapter which comes out November 30th, Jade Legacy.

That’s pretty much it for this review? Have you read Jade City or Jade War yet? What’s your favorite part? What would you do if jade really gave you super powers like it does in these stories? What’s the scariest thing about that prospect?

Please leave your thoughts and answers in the comments section. I’m anxious to talk about this book!

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