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Jade City by Fonda Lee – Book Review!

Goodreads Synopsis

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.


The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.


When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself. 

My Review

I have had this book on my shelf for far too long to admit, so when Leah sent me over a stack of books we could Buddy Read and this was on it I jumped at the chance. I’m so glad we chose to read this together because there were so many moments when I needed someone to scream at, and Leah was there screaming right back. You can read Leahs amazing review here!

I want to start off by saying this book is quite dense, not in a bad way, but there is a lot of information to take in so for people who like quick and easy reads this may not be the one for you. However, if you love seeing characters get built up, learning their backstories and seeing whether they shine or fall when faced with adversity. If you love intricate magic systems and cultures that jump off the page, then I can gurantee you will love this.

Jade City follows the Kaul family, the leaders of No Peak clan as they face adversity from The Mountain. Lan, the Pillar and leader of the clan is calm and levelheaded, much needed qualities in the Pillar. He knows his strength is not necessarily in battle, but when it comes to working politicians, and the general running of the clan there is no one better qualified. He is quiet and reserved, but when the safety of his family and clan are brought into question he will step up and do what is necessary to protect them.

Hilo, the Horn. He is the head of the Fingers and Fists, the fighters of No Peak. He is quick to anger and can certainly hold a grudge, but with Hilo family comes first always. He can’t stand for weakness of any kind and with his fellow fighters makes sure to make The Mountain’s life as hard as possible.

Shae, the prodigal daughter returned. She thought she had left the clan, and the life of a Green Bone behind but as we know, blood is thicker than water, and she will find herself entangled with the clan again before she knows it. She is a woman brought up in a world where men are entitled to things women aren’t, but before long she will show her strength.

Anden technically isn’t a Kaul, he isn’t even technically a full Green Bone, but after his mother succumbed to the madness that wearing Jade can cause, Lan and the Kauls took him in and raised him as a sibling. He is not sure where he fits in, and isn’t sure if he’s fit to wear Jade after what happened to his mother, but he is loyal to the Kauls and will prove that when the time comes to graduate.

There are a multitude of side characters all of which are well built up Doru the No Peak Weather Man, the person in charge of funding and ensuring all the No Peak businesses are performing and safe. We also meet certain members of The Mountain Clan including their Pillar a violent woman who killed everyone in her path to become Pillar. There is one other POV that I can’t tell you much about without giving away spoilers but be sure to pay attention to them. There are no character or info dumps. The author draws you into the story chapter by chapter until you almost become one of the Kaul family, you feel their losses and triumphs as if they were your own, and if you’re like me, you become overly invested in their outcome.

I’ve seen this described as Godfather-esque and it couldn’t be more on the mark. Rival families, plenty of death and battle scenes. This isn’t a book for the faint of heart. The battle scenes are pretty graphic with vivid descriptions, but this just adds to the darkness and drama of the overall plot. The battle scenes are also epic in their descriptions. Martial arts meets magic, Lee brings the battles between Green Bones to life, showing the difference between the offensive and defensive sides of Jade, as well as how easy it is to loose yourself to the Jade if you’re not careful or properly trained.

Jade City held a big shock factor for me. There were some plot twists that I did see coming, and others that hit me out of the blue. But it wasn’t just the plot twists that had me gasping, some of the scenes had me gripping the pages with white knuckles hoping what I was reading wasn’t actually going to happen… like I said I got invested in the characters. It was a little slow to start off, but I enjoyed the build up, getting to spend time learning about the characters and the culture that Lee created. It definitely made the ending that much more gripping.

A brilliant adult fantasy, think Romeo and Juliet without the forbidden romance, with all the darkness and shock factor of the Godfather. Filled with brilliantly written characters and a well built and imagined magic system. I enjoyed this book a lot more than expected and am excited to carry on with the series.

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10 replies »

  1. What an awesome review, Becky! And I seriously couldn’t have possibly picked a better buddy read partner to scream about this book with. It was seriously like you read my mind so many times, and I had so much fun discussing this and trying to guess what might happen next.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulous review, Becky! I think what brought my read of this to a halt at the start of 2020 (other than the start of the pandemic mood swings) was that I was expecting something so different. It’s definitely dense, although like you said not in a bad way, but I wish I had known that when I initially picked it up so I’d have been better prepared 😂 BUT your review has motivated me to give it another go (and soon) because I love love love when I get attached to characters and these ones were great!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great review! I really can’t wait to read this one especially since I want to read more adult fantasy this year and this would be perfect for that! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

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