I’d heard a lot about Jade City by Fonda Lee before I picked it up. It had begun to build up some incredible hype when the second one came out and people remembered just how good the first is. I feel that the hype for a first book gets a second wind when the sequel comes out as people didn’t want to hype it too early in case the rest of the series was bad. I do plan on reading the second at some point. However, this review is about the first.
Jade City, for those of you who haven’t heard anything about it, is the story of characters within two families. This first novel feels like a huge turning in the tides for a family that has lived relatively peacefully for a while, and it tells of the trials and tribulations each member faces to prove themselves in this empire. Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon and gives some people abilities within the book – adding a wonderful element to the tale.
Plot – 4.5/5
The general plot of this book is that of two families during peacetime who inevitably end up at war after they’re both pushed too far. The book doesn’t focus on one character in particular – which I enjoyed. It very much felt like we were following the whole family. The plot grips you in from the very first page and features not only some incredible action but some huge plot twists that really pull you in. There’s a moment in the middle of the book that I was not expecting and changed the whole dynamic of the rest of the book.
There are multiple weaving stories within this book – all linked by the same family. There’s the tale of a young up and comer who excels in his class at school and who is expected to enter the “family business” when he graduates. There’s the tale of a long-lost family member who comes back seeking retribution and forgiveness. There’s a tale of the reckless brother who uses questionable methods in a family who want to be seen as moral. Then there’s the story of the head of the business and family, taking over from the long-reigning previous head, and his struggles in trying to assert himself and the strains this puts on his health, both physically and mentally. It really is a book with a lot going on and had a story that had my interest piqued throughout.
There is magic/abilities in this book, but they’re very rarely drawn upon and aren’t the purpose of the book – they’re simply a wonderful addition that really adds to the uniqueness of this book.
Characters – 4.5/5
As I’ve discussed, this book is about the tale of many characters all connected to the one main family. Some of their stories are told better than others with the brother’s and the main character’s likely being the best two. None of the characters absolutely shine in terms of being the “funny one” or the “clumsy one” or the “kind one” which is usually when a character stands out to me. However, they are all very definable, which also makes a great character. If a character makes a decision that doesn’t seem logical based on the views they have or the previous actions they’ve taken, it can really make a character seem bland and make the reader/viewer care less for them. However, that didn’t happen here.
I look forward to reading about these characters further in the coming books and seeing what others Fonda Lee brings in.
Jade City by Fonda Lee summary – 5/5
I absolutely adored this book and even tweeted the author telling them it needs to be made into a TV series – it would make a great episodic drama. I would be shocked if this isn’t picked up by Amazon Prime, Netflix or HBO – especially after the success of the likes of The Witcher, Shadow and Bone, Game of Thrones etc.
It’s a story that, as I said, draws you in from the beginning and keeps you hooked with its constant fast-paced action, genuinely interesting and lovable characters, and your constant longing to know what’s going to happen in the next chapter. I’d have to say this was one of my favourite books of 2020 without a doubt.
Despite giving it two 4.5/5 star ratings, I’ve decided to round the final review score up to five as I refuse to give specific sections a perfect score but am happy to say that it is more of a five-star book than it is a four.