Fonda Lee | July 2019
Just finished Jade War and I am shooketh.🤭 In response, I’m breaking personal protocol, skipping two unwritten reviews and writing this on the heels of closing my Kindle on the last page. It’s predecessor, Jade City, was really no different and, in a year of very rigorous competition, has proven to be my fav so far. This series is giving me everything: a colorful, magical fantasy world filled with complex, expressive characters, spirituality, love, drama, sex and violence. What more could you want?
At the end of book 1, Jade City (JC), the two clans were at war but, No Peaks execution of the rival Mountain clans Horn, had given No Peak, a leg up. In comparison to JC, which was focused more on the clans using brute force to win territory, War is more about the long game. Each clan attempts to use covert political strategy to gain leverage, causing some pointed collateral damage on either side. The Kaul family of No Peak has grown to include Hilo’s children, so, they have more to protect, more to loose and seemingly, willing to take greater risks because of it.
In War, we learn more about life off the main island and many new characters are added. This was a bit troublesome at times because the names and places are so foreign..it was tough to keep things in order and remember them all. Adding to that is a tricky plot full of doublecrossing and espionage. My kindle version came with a world map and character companion, listing folks grouped by clan or gang – much needed. Frequently, I needed to be reminded who someone was originally associated. A little troublesome but overall does not hinder the story. The effort is worth it.
What I continue to love about this series is the fullness of the characters and space. Without being overhanded, the author seems to share each characters backstory. You’ll discover you understand why some low level thug is a low level thug and though he may be expendable to the other characters, you wince when he’s killed. Lee also does a great job of creating a very detailed, colorful and robust setting. Having never stepped foot in Espenia, I feel as if I could direct you to Grudge Hall and Anden’s apartment.
An overwhelming theme that’s quite enjoyable about this series are the roles women play. The very powerful men in this story seem to consistently seek the counsel of the women in their lives. This plays out well until the later scenes when, I’n my opinion, they grossly overstep and it goes very wrong.
The author, flexing her Stanford MBA and doing some savvy marketing, has already released the cover art for book 3, Jade Legacy. A repeated comparison in book 2 is the idea the Mountain has no legacy and in fact, its leader doesn’t respect family, since she killed her adopted brothers to gain power. On the other hand No Peak’s leader Hilo is raising 3 boys and a daughter. I’m assuming Legacy will focus more on the next generation of the Clans and how No Peak, though smaller and less powerful, could use this as leverage.
Interesting book club discussion around the male/female dynamic: No Peaks Pillar, Hilo has the luxury of having children because, he has a wife. The Mountains Pillar, Mada, and No Peak Weatherman, Shae, both women, don’t seem to be afforded the same luxury. Each of them felt pressured to kill family/children to obtain/maintain their current power. Real world application? A high performing woman takes off 3 months for pregnancy leave, to return to her male, lower performing peer, in a higher paying/ranking position. Take a peek at comments online about equal pay for women and inevitably some male says ‘well, if you’re always out with children, blah-blah’. Listen, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing, just talk about the shit because I can’t here. I’ll spoil the plot and go on an off topic rant. What’s a book club for if you can’t drink wine and argue about maybe not so subliminal themes? ✅🤷🏾♀️
Overall, great second book. Even though it’s clearly setting the stage for future stories by expanding the landscape and the families, it’s a great stand alone novel. You must read these in order for them to make sense. Enjoy! #GoodBook 23 of 36!