Saturday, July 15, 2023

Jade War

Fonda Lee
Completed 7/15/2023, Reviewed 7/15/2023
4 stars

Really impressed that the sophomore effort in this trilogy is nearly as excellent as the first, Jade City.  At about the same length, it took me a little longer to read this book because work had me so exhausted that I fell asleep a few nights after reading just a couple of pages.  I will admit that there were times where the action slowed while Lee brought the reader up to speed with what happened to all the characters since the end of the last book.  Those sections weren’t boring, just slow.  And some of the international politics slowed things down a bit, but again, it wasn’t a trudge.  This book was nominated for several lower profile awards, but I would say it should have gotten more than it did.  

This plot summary has spoilers for the first novel, so beware…

It’s been eighteen months since the end of the first book.  Hilo is now Pillar of the No Peak clan.  He has married his lover Wen.  Without his knowledge, she does some spy work for the clan.  Hilo’s sister Shae is Weather Man.  She has her hand in all the business and politicking.  And she has taken on a lover.  Anden, the gay adoptive brother is all but punished for his rejection of Jade and indoctrination as a Green Bone.  He has disrespected the family, but his conscience won’t allow him to become a Green Bone after killing a man in the clan wars.  So, Anden is sent to Espenia to study abroad, but also to feel out the situation for bringing clan business to the mainland.  The Mountain Clan is gaining power and influence on the island since the death of Hilo’s brother Lan.  However, there is a tentative peace between the clans after all the violence of the previous few years.  In the meantime, war is raging on the mainland, causing uncertainty in the Jade trade, both legal and illegal, and the international relationships of countries and businesses with the clans.

What really stuck out for me was how much Hilo had matured.  He was the Horn of the clan, basically the head of the clan’s “army”.  He was hot headed and vengeful.  In this book, he’s much more subdued.  He still has the same faults.  They are just tempered.  Some of that is attributable to having a wife and a growing family, making him a more responsible leader.  This can be shown by his decision to send Anden to the mainland rather than a complete exile.  

Another standout is Bero, the street urchin who killed Lan.  The book begins with Bero again, this time, he and his accomplice steal Lan’s Jade from the grave.  This causes an all-out manhunt by the No Peaks, but Bero is still slippery.  He has an incredible power of survival.  And while he doesn’t get equal page time the clan family, his seemingly impulsive actions steer the course of the war between the clans.

I was excited that Anden got more page time in this book.  After sulking for a while in Espenia, he ends up an active part of the Kekon community there and even gets a boyfriend.  However, Cory is the only son the Pillar of this part of Espenia.  So you can see what’s probably coming there.  Still, his character developed very well.  

Lastly, Wen, Hilo’s wife, also gets more character development and page time.  I liked her as well.  As the stone eye, that is, a person unaffected by proximity to Jade, she finds ways to help the clan, despite Hilo’s insistence that she does not put herself in danger.

I was never one for crime family dramas, like The Godfather or The Sopranos.  However, I am fully immersed in the Kaul family saga.  I can’t wait to read the last book in the series.  So much happens in this book, so many twists and turns, that it kept my interest once the setting was reestablished in the beginning.  The crazy politics was even interesting.  This series would not be my usual cup of tea, but I found it just amazing.  I could hardly put it down for the last hundred pages.  I give this book four stars out of five, knocking off one star only because it took a while to ramp up.  

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