Mount Readmore Book Review, 2018 3/200
Jade City By Fonda Lee
Finished on 11/26/2017
Description: FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.
Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.
Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.
When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.
Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.
Genres: Fantasy, Adult, Urban Fantasy, High Fantasy, Asian Fantasy, Grimdark, Crime Fiction
The No Peak Clan and the Mountain Clan are going to war. Will your favorite characters live or die?
I loved this book. This is a book about Mafia Clans fighting against one another over magical jade and the future of their small island nation. Set in a world not unlike the Cold War era, where colonial powers were just thrown off but now great nations are jockeying for valuable military resources. Kekon’s magic jade is the magical military resource coveted by foreign powers and local gangs alike.
Kekon is ruled from the shadows by two mafioso gangs: the No Peak Clan and the Mountain Clan. One generation back the No Peaks and the Mountains worked together to throw off oppressing colonists. These days new, ambitious, untested leaders of the two clans are chomping at the bit for violence. Coming from a culture of mystic warriors, the peace of their fathers is shattered by their warrior ethos demanding recompense for perceived slights.
The characters in this book were excellent. The 3 Kaul children lead the No Peak clan. They are Lon, Shan and Helo, who struggle with an expansionist neighbor who’s unafraid of breaching all the codes of honor. Lon is the quintessential ‘Responsible Adult,’ so it only makes sense that he’s the clan leader. Shan is the magic-warrior turned businesswoman who is struggling to find her place outside of the orbit of her (in)famous family. Helo is the honorable and valorous but brutish leader of No Peak’s military branch.
The plot is a straight-up mafia war. The clans are engaged in turf wars over three things: ‘tribute’ areas; whether to trade with foreigners; and the production/outlaw of an addictive drug. No Peak are the ‘good’ guys, in that they fight for the traditional values of Kekon while still being a mafia. The Mountain Clan are the ‘bad’ guys, yet from their perspective they are doing what they have to do to keep Kekon safe amid a massive cold war between two great and hostile powers. There is no police oversight of the interclan wars, for the clans are the military of Kekon and outclass the police.
The setting is vivid. Told from 6+ POVs, we are given a diversity of viewpoints of this ancient-yet-modernizing island. Kekon has Air Conditioning, color television, investment banking and tourism, as well as a resurgent native culture after being suppressed by the colonists. We see restaurants, temples, banks, apartments, nightlife, brothels, black market shops, jade mines, docks, graveyards, schools and foreign military bases. We smell the tempura and crunchy calamari. Kekon is a living and breathing island nation.
The magic granted by jade is a combination of psychic powers, super-strength, chi-magic and telekinesis. But here’s the catch: it’s super addictive. Not everyone can use the magic, but people who do struggle going ‘cold turkey’ off of jade. At first I was a little leery of the concept of jade being special, but Fonda Lee really made it work. I now want to know why Kekon jade is so special, and will read more books to find out.
But no book is perfect. Here’s my biggest bit of constructive criticism: a lack of non-No Peak viewpoints. I can think of only two segments featuring non-No Peak viewpoint- one scene where an Espenian (a foreign nation) politician was given a single scene, and one scene where the Mountain Clan’s chief military director was given a single scene. I wanted more. I wanted to see through the eyes of the Mountain and the foreigners, so I could get a better grasp on No Peak and Kekon as a whole.
I was sucked into this book from page 1. I WILL read the follow up books. This is most certainly book 1 of a series, though. While this book can stand alone, it is clearly meant to have follow up books.
Note: Like G.R.R. Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones,’ characters you like WILL die. Be warned.
Highly, HIGHLY recommended.
Audiobook notes: the audiobook narrator did a good job.