REVIEW: Jade City by Fonda Lee
Jade City by Fonda Lee is about this jade stone that gives people enhanced abilities. This jade stone is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon and cannot be found anywhere else. This island is run by two clans of greenbones and the ruling council. The saying is “A man who wears the crown of a king cannot wear the jade of a warrior. Gold and jade, never together.” So this is why greenbone warriors have their own clans and clan rules but come together with the ruling council to decide laws to do with Jade.
We enter our story with Bero and Sampa planning to steal Jade from a Green Bone but luckily for the green bone, the Malik brothers, also green bones, stop the altercation from happening. Luckily for Bero and Sampa, the horn of the clan (Army Leader), Hilo doesn’t want to kill them but instead use them for information. They go to Hilo’s brother Kaul Lan, the Pillar of the Clan, (Leader) and tell him of the information they have as well. There’s a new jade smuggler in town who killed the previous that they had information on already. The new smuggler is only known by the name the Carver. The two of them are set free but we will see them again soon.
Kaul Sen, the previously leader of the clan and the grandfather to Hilo and Lan, visits Lan who wants to retire the weather man currently in that position, Doru, as Doru is undermining him. But to Kaul Sen, Doru is a beloved friend and colleague that helped them win the war with the shotarians. Sen and Lan duel over this decision and Sen wins, so Doru stays.
Hilo’s and Lan’s sister, Kaul Shae returns from being no contact with her family and studying in another country after falling in love with a man from Espenia. Unfortunately for Shen, that pairing didn’t last long but she found that she loved Espenia and time without her Jade so much that she stayed. With Shen back in the country, Hilo goes to visit his young cousin Anden who is in training at the Green Bone Academy to become a warrior for the clan like his cousin’s. Hilo tells Anden that once he graduates from the academy, much is expected of him because of his family name and that the time of war is coming.
On Boat day, a celebration of the clans, Anden is attacked by their opposing clan, the mountain but is kept in pristine condition due to who he is. He is brought to Ayt Mada who is the Pillar of the mountain clan. She explains that his cousins, Hilo and Lan are impossible to arrange a meeting with as they reject her invitation every single time, so this was the only way she could think of getting their attention. Anden will be returned back to his clan unharmed as long as Hilo doesn’t do anything irrational. Ayt offers Anden a position in her clan overseeing the production of SN1 also known as Shine. Shine allows normal people the ability to wear Jade. Once returned to his clan, Anden tells Lan of what the mountain are doing but Lan wants to stay out of the production of Shine but to keep an eye on the mountain.
Thinking that something may be up with the Kekkon Jade Alliance (KJA) which is in control of the mining of Jade for the country, Lan asks his sister Shae to look at the records. She tells Lan that they has been more equipment built and a higher production rate but the normal amount in the vault, so where is the extra amount going. Somebody is stealing the Jade. But whilst this is going on, the mountain challenge Lan to a battle and he wins, just about but the extra jade that he has won and is now wearing is taking an affect on him so he drinks Shine to manage to appear more powerful as after all, he is the Pillar of the clan. But when Anden catches him drinking it, Anden begs him to stop but alas he does not.
Shae suspects Doru as being the one stealing the extra Jade and a plan to stop him is set in motion. Lan visits his favourite brothel, where he has spent time there in the past whilst Hilo goes after Doru. Doru is captured by Hilo for his crimes but when Hilo needs Lan, he is nowhere to be seen. It is revealed that Baro was hired by some thugs to do a job for them. To go to the brothel and shoot it up with guns but when Baro sees Lan there, he figures that it’s better to go after him instead and follows him across town. Bero manages to kill Hilo but only because he overdosed on shine and Lan drowns in the river. Bero runs away before anybody can catch him and unfortunately for him, does not take any of the Jade away with him. As Lan is now dead, that makes Hilo the pillar of the clan, the one person who was never meant to be the pillar becomes one.
After the death of her brother, Shae puts her Jade back on again and becomes the newly appointed Weather Man of the clan after Doru betrayed them. She goes to Doru and he admits that yes he was involved but he was only doing it as a way for the clan to survive. She lets him live only for the fact that her grandfather loves him and now that he is under house arrest, the only person he is allowed to see is Kaul Sen. Doru is stripped of his Jade. But when Kaul Sen realises that his friend has no jade, he gives Doru jade and Doru escapes to the mountain clan.
Shae and Hilo meet with Ayt Mada who Hilo accuses of stealing the Jade. Ayt Mada asks Shae to turn her back on her clan and betray them as she wants somebody like Shae on her team as she is a wise woman but Shae declines because she would never betray her family unlike what Ayt Mada did to get in her position. Ayt Mada killed her father and other people in the line of succession in order to become the Pillar of the mountain clan. Shae is not hunger driven in that way to betray her own family. After this meeting, Wen, Hilo’s wife and the Malik’s brother’s sister, comes to the new weather man and asks her to be a part of the war effort in any way possible. It’s just that Hilo doesn’t want her involved but she still wants to help as after all Jade does not affect her in the way that it does for other green bones. Shae agrees and reveals that she can be a spy because of her abilities to not get affected by Jade. So under the guise of another job, she becomes a spy within the mountain clan and gains a network of spies that help her out along the way.
The war between the two clans carry on and the two horns of the clans fight each other. Technically, Hilo is the pillar and the horn of his clan at this point as he is not anointed to be the pillar but has not given the role of the horn over to someone else yet. Gont, the horn of the mountain clan is about to kill Hilo but Anden helps his cousin out and kills Gont with his extra jade abilities that we learn about throughout the story. Anden is exhausted from the battle and falls into a coma. Once he awakes, he attends his graduation ceremony from the academy but does not accept his Jade as he feels it is too powerful for him. Hilo is upset and banishes him from his sight. This eventually leads to Anden being sent to Espenia.
We finish our story with the revelation that Bero goes to the grave of Kaul Lan and retrieves the Jade from the burial ground as technically it is his Jade as he was the one that killed Lan. He runs off into the night with the Jade.
This story is one of compelling story writing. Fonda Lee did such a marvelous job when writing this book and I was gripping at the edge of my seat for every twist and turn of this book. One thing that I certainly did not see coming was the death of Kaul Lan as I thought I was in it for the long haul with this main character but as I should have guessed, main characters can die and hell hath no fury like a writer especially George R.R. Martin. I read this book because of how widely it was recommended via twitter and the hype for it was definitely well deserved. The next book better be even better.
4 out of 5 stars.