Jade City features a brilliantly rendered fantasy world filled with a rich, deeply interesting history and multi-faceted characters that value honor and family ties above all else.
This is a society constantly on the verge of war. No past slight or betrayal is left buried, and we see tensions continue to grow until they reach a breaking point. Lee continuously alters viewpoints, giving us insights into the family members of the No Peak clan and their ongoing struggles with the Mountain Clan. Everything seems to be holding on by a thread and that constant risk of all out battle is on the edge of every page.
The utilization of jade as a personal power source is especially original. It straddles the line between a practical, everyday object and a mystical fighting aid that turns men and women into gods. There’s a deep history behind its discovery and its use in their culture. As with all parts of this meticulously crafted world, Lee has put a lot of thought into the role it plays in the ongoing conflicts.
If you do a little research, you’ll see that Lee was greatly influenced by mafia culture when writing the book (read an interview here). That connection rings true, especially in the deeply ingrained familial structures of these families. They live on the verge of royalty, with each business and individual pledging allegiance to a clan in exchange for protection.
Verbal insults often seem to be on the same level as assassination attempts, further adding to the constant tension in the most basic of scenes.
Lee’s character work is especially admirable. We’re able to attach deeply to the top three members of the No Peak Clan, from the constantly calculating Lan to the impetuous Hilo to the hesitant Shae. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, played to great effect throughout the novel. Lan begins as this larger than life figure but, as we get to know him, we see him as a man with great responsibility who must work tirelessly to uphold his family’s power. Hilo continues to be a hotheaded enforcer, yet he has a soft side as well. Shae is torn between familial obligation and the desire to forge her own path. Together, they make up a fascinating family.
Overall, Jade City is a brilliant novel, much deserving of its accolades. I only regret waiting so long to experience this wonderful creation.
By Fonda Lee
Published by Orbit
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.