4 stars · book review

book review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

3.5 stars | Goodreads review

Let me preface this by saying, I just don’t really like mafia/gang plot lines, hence why I rated this lower than books IMO that are not as quality as Jade City. I think this is a 4 to 4.25 star book quality-wise, but in terms of enjoyment, it took me a long time to figure out whether I liked it overall. And the verdict is – I do like this quite a bit.

I like this book more than it appears on my rating of it! Jade City has a really strong family dynamic going for it and for me that was the main draw in. To be honest, I skimmed past a lot of the action scenes. I would have likely understood the jade combat mechanics a bit more if I paid more attention to the fights, but you can get the gist of things without picking out fine details. I’m mainly on the lukewarm side wrt my rating because I’m not partial to gangster, mafia, or drug-related storylines.

Jade is so integral to the foundation of the story and the setting. To the reader, it might seem like magic. Hell, it even seems like magic to nations outside of Kekon. But in Kekon being green is normal. They have academies for learning how to handle jade as a martial art amplifier; mines and 2nd class citizens (Abukei) who are immune to jade’s effects; medical conditions from jade sensitivity/overexposure; international jade smuggling; and so on. All good, carefully thought-out, detailed worldbuilding I like to see.

After-thoughts:
– They actually killed Lan earlier than I expected!

– It’s like my dad ghostwrote Hilo’s character. The “people are like horses” quote and subsequent life lesson given to Anden was hillarious because it’s done just like the way an Asian dad would do it. I think Hilo and Shae have the most interesting relationship. Partly because they remind me of my dad and myself in their interactions, but also because it’s tumultuous while they both remain staunchly loyal to one another.

– Fucking Bero. I’d skip every Bero chapter if I could, but I had to make sure he didn’t do anything important before doing it.

Even though a bunch of randos got killed off on both sides of the gang conflict and we didn’t know that much about their personal lives, the weight of their deaths are still felt in universe unlike *cough* some books that are guilty of killing off random characters we aren’t connected to ADSOM.

– Shae was probably my fave. She made bad decisions in the past but now she’s back home and climbed to the top of my fave female characters list with the sheer power of her decision making skills in wartime. I loved that she was her grandpa’s fave and then threw it all out the window and then came back to face the awkwardness after 2 years. I love seeing the “golden child” being not so golden and then coming through anyway.

– Poor Andy… He’s the character I most want to see next book.

– Some part of me doesn’t trust Wen.

Plotwise, it felt like I kept waiting for something to happen. Midway, something happens with Lan, the eldest brother, which was foreshadowed quite a lot. The 2nd major twist was near the end, but didn’t feel immense enough to justify ~450 pages of a slow-simmering gang war.

As some other reviews have mentioned, there seems to be an imbalance in the writing of female characters. The 3 women in the story aren’t badly written. I just wish they had more page count dedicated to their POVs. Aside from that, the gender dynamics within the Kaul family hit too close to home e.g. Hilo wouldn’t OK Shae’s life decisions unless they were on his terms (this extends to Andy and Wen too but they aren’t within the nuclear family).

 

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