Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2) by Fonda Lee
Published by Orbit Books
Adult, Urban Fantasy
Release Date : 23rd July 2019
In Jade War, the sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.
On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.
Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.
Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.
Jade War is the second book of the Green Bone Saga, an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.
“Out of small resentments, spring great wars.”
Trigger Warning : substance abuse, decapitation, gore, death, violence, sex, live burial
Jade War is the sequel in which characters and the world developed together in a race where modernity and traditions clash. “I swear on my honor, my life, and my jade.”
Starting the month of April I was dreading whether I could read Jade War with all of the stress I’m experiencing from many facets of my life. Alas I did manage to pick it up! The Green Bone Saga is one of my top favorite series. The first book, Jade City, left such a big impression on me that I was so excited when I finally got my hands on the audiobook on Libby. Jumping back into the world of Green Bones with it’s variety of customs, cultures, politics, and world dynamics is a comforting feeling. Though that comforting feeling quickly turned into terror the deeper I got into the book. When I thought Fonda Lee already pushed the envelope far enough in Jade City, she pushed it way further in this sequel. Because of this I can declare early on in my review that Jade War will make it into my list of second book syndrome destroyers. Dare I say that Lee sets the bar even higher than its predecessor.
Jade War is the explosive sequel to an already amazing first book of The Green Bone Saga series, Jade City, by Fonda Lee. A story that revolves around the Kaul family, the core of the No Peak clan, one of the most influential clans on the island of Kekon. As the growing tensions between the two rivaling clans of Kekon, No Peak and the Mountain, threatens the peaceful life of the innocent citizens another war brews in outside of the island. And this time the two clans have to out maneuver each other to gain political influence and expand their clan business outside of their small island. While in Jade City the story focused more on the internal clan relations and the clan war, in this sequel Lee sheds light on the broader side of things. The groundbreaking foundations that is built in the first book is sky rocketed to it’s highest point in stakes and emotional scarring. Let’s say I experienced all the emotions that a human can feel in a lifetime while reading this book.
“Janloon wore its savagery on its sleeve; it was a proud Fist among nations, it did not hide what it was. Janloon was honest.”
The main focus in Jade War is the many facets of the war that is threatening the peace in Kekon and its people. From the war that is happening near the borders of Kekon between two countries resulting in the growing tension and pressure for the Kekonese government to maintain a neutral stance. To the violent clan war on the streets of Janloon between No Peak and the Mountain creating more opportunities for foreign or underground threats to establish illegal business’ under the noses of the two clans. Jade is a hot commodity in these times of war resulting for the focus to shift to international relations and territorial expansion. Since the demand in jade is more prominent than ever it creates a slow burning chaotic environment that is organically realized. These chaotic environment can be identified in the emerging foreign underground parties that tries to get their piece in the jade trade. The Kaul family takes center stage in this complex debacle revolving around jade all the while trying to defend their existence and fight off the external threats that want to see their clan destroyed. When you think the Mountain is the only enemy threatening their existence, the No Peak clan is on the hit list of a lot more people now.
Lee doesn’t hold back at all in this sequel, with each flip of the page it is anxiety inducing and will surely keep you at the edge of your seat the whole time. Though the action sequences in this sequel isn’t as prominent as Jade City, Lee will treat you to an onslaught war machinations that is offensive in ways that doesn’t dirty ones hands with blood and gore. These machinations takes the form of shady alliances and business deals, manipulation, smear campaigns, bribery, proxy wars, and many more. That is not all, this natural struggle in the politic and economic landscape also leaves an impact on the people in war torn countries or poor countries with corrupt governments or just people searching for a better future, as seen in the refugees. With the ever growing and advancing world the Kekonese must adapt to the change. There is an ever growing interest and ever evolving culture regarding jade in foreign countries. The knowledge of the existence of green bones are highly stereotypical outside of Kekon. These views of the green bone culture and the romanticization of jade adds fuel to the jade black market impacting the distribution of jade that was once highly regulated and exclusive to military or governmental affairs. The drug SN1 also makes it easier for non Kekonese people to hone powers of jade. And of course like the war on drugs in real life smugglers will do everything to get the drugs or jade into the market. All of this is present in the world that Fonda Lee has created, it is a sophisticated ecosystem of jade in which any decisions or any move made is like a continuous ripple effect. Solidifying Jade War as one of the books that I would like to label as a book with not just superb character development but also mind boggling world development.
“Change is inevitable, Kaul-jen; the only question is whether if we control its direction or become victims of a landslide.”
The main event of the Green Bone Saga is it’s characters, centered around one green bone family and head of the No Peak clan, the Kaul family. There is a plethora of character raging from the dominating green bone clans, lantern men, politicians from all sides of the world, the smuggles and dealers, street thugs and so on. The Kauls spearheads the story as it shows how the No Peak adapts to the evolving world with all its machinations. The story is mostly told from the perspective of the three main members of the Kaul family : Hilo, Shae, and Anden. Though occasionally Lee would gives us a glimpse from other members of No Peak such as : Wen, Tar, Ken, and so on, though their appearances are like bite sized cameos. But! One character gave one of the best inner monologues and showed the most impactful growth, Kaul Maik Wenruxian. Wen is a mother, wife to the pillar of No Peak, an entrepreneur, a sister, and so many things. Lee hinted about her ambitions and drive in Jade City, in this book she is a force to be reckoned with. Behind every powerful man there is a powerful woman and that woman is Wen!
“… She could never be a Green Bone herself, as much as she felt she was one at heart, but she could think like a Green Bone. She was an enabler, an aide, a hidden weapon, and that was worth something. Perhaps a great deal.“
Hilo is finally embracing his role as Pillar of the clan, warming up to his new responsibilities and duty to maintain a good relationship with everyone as the Pillar. Even though Hilo is somewhat reluctant at most, he acknowledges that he is the only choice and he will see through all the clan affairs. As a character Hilo is a loose cannon, a sleeping tiger, and down right unpredictable. Lee’s talent as a writer in keeping readers guessing lies with Kaul Hiloshudon. Hilo’s intimidating presence and menacing aura bleeds out of the page. When I first met Hilo in Jade City that aura resonated from his position as Horn but now it has matured, to a more reserved and calculating character like a snake recoiling preparing to strike. There are some actions done by Hilo that is still reminiscent of the Horn-Hilo, when his rage and unbending personality comes to surface from his Pillar exterior. Some of the highlights from Hilo is seeing him become a dad. As a character that is brutal and violent at times Hilo showed his soft side towards his family. It is refreshing seeing these happy interactions between the pillar and the future of No Peak.
“You have to go where your enemies are,” Hilo said. “And then further.”
A character that has shown their strengths and vulnerability in the Green Bone Saga since day one is Kaul Shaelinsan. The weatherman and voice of reason of No Peak. Shae is one of those characters that goes through the revolving door of tragedy multiple times. This time it is no different. Shae’s struggle as a woman in a male dominated world after she took on the role of Weatherman is inspiring. The expectations and stakes for a woman to assume an important role in a clan is higher compared to a man. For a woman many will expect them to be weak and complacent, Shae proved all of the people that doubted her wrong. As a woman I resonated with her more compared to Hilo and Anden. Shae’s development as character in Jade War is heart achingly important to her character. She went through grief, betrayal, death, and public shaming by standing her ground as Weatherman putting the clan as priority before herself. It surprised me that Shae has the guts to assert her position and take a more violent approach to turn the tides of a dire situation. There is an uplifting moment shared between Shae and Wen. I will not go into detail because spoilers, of course. I can only hope for her happiness in the third book because oh boy! She deserves it.
“The clan is my blood and the Pillar is its master,” she whispered. “I have a lot of regrets in life, but those oaths aren’t one of them.”
Emery Anden the true main character of Jade City and future of the No Peak clan. Anden’s development since the events of the previous book takes the angsty route. He is clearly traumatized and scared of the violent side of being a green bone. These traumas only became more prominent after the ending of Jade City that Anden decides to eliminate jade from his life. For a young adult that has trained and dedicated his life to the jade arts, growing up in a green bone family with a future in the clan that is ready to welcome him and closing the door to this life doesn’t make sense to a green bone. And to this I say, Anden is young and he has lots of opportunities to figure out his life. Anden’s overarching coming of age story and his self discovery journey is vital to his development as a whole.
I will not go into detail about his development because it is littered with spoilers left and right. All I can say is that Anden’s perspective gives insight to the world outside of Kekon from the eyes of a Kekonese born boy hinting at the future of green bones and the evolution of the world. It is also a perspective that will open your eyes to refresh readers mindset about green bones as a whole. This made me realize while reading Jade City I have romanticized the green bone lifestyle because the story is mostly told from the Kaul’s perspective, a green bone’s perspective. Fonda Lee gave us insight to other green bones in different parts of the world through Anden. It is entertaining seeing this contrast in lifestyle and how these differences in views while maintaining the same culture from Kekon is parallel for immigrants that grew up far away from their ancestral lands. This made me think about the debate with myself about being a Chinese-Indonesian or any readers that come from immigrant families.
“Green isn’t easily rubbed away.”
Final thoughts, this is a very long review for one of the best sequels I’ve read in 2021. Jade War contained all that is great from Jade City and built upon it a continuation of a story that easily blast the expectations from it’s predecessor to dust. It is very rare for a sequel to be more intimidating than the first book, the world building is organically savage and unforgiving, the absolutely perfect ecosystem for a set of equally amazing characters. Not only that the characters themselves maintained a powerful presence in propelling the story forward, the world itself also played a part in displaying the growth of the Kekonese society and the world surrounding it. I think this review is already long enough and expressed all of my feelings about Jade War. If you stumbled upon this review and is interested in reading The Green Bone Saga, please check my review for Jade City, below.
I highly recommend for everyone to read this amazing series, it is the best book to segway that can peak your interest to adult fantasy. It is the right amount of world building and a simple magic system to follow. To top it all of is the amazing characterization
(if my long essay isn’t convincing enough). Please do yourself justice and read this series.
“The clan was not just people and jade and money. It was an idea, a legacy that connected the past with the present and the future. The family’s strength was a promise.”